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HomeSportsThe 21-question 'beat the drum' Eddie Jones Aussie media unveiling

The 21-question ‘beat the drum’ Eddie Jones Aussie media unveiling

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It’s incredible how quickly the rugby world can change. Just over nine weeks ago, new Australia boss Eddie Jones sounded deluded. His then-England side had just been thrashed at home by South Africa to round off a dismal 2022 with just five wins in 12 matches. Moving in the “right direction” and “not far away” were two of the most bizarre comments he said to a room of disbelieving journalists at his post-match media conference in London. No one believed him. 

Fast forward 66 days to another room jammed with media, only this time they were enthusiastically hanging on to every word that Jones had to say. That’s what a new job in a very different location on the other side of the world can do – generate wholesale optimism.

The recently turned 63-year-old Jones lapped the situation on his return as Australia coach to Matraville Sports High, his old Sydney school from the 1970s, turning on his trademark showmanship charm across a 48-minute session that initially included an Aboriginal welcome from his old buddy Gary Ella. 

There were then top-table platitudes from Jones’ new buddies, the Rugby Australia duo of Hamish McLennan and Andy Marinos who handed him a five-year deal on January 16 just 41 days after his English Rugby HQ sacking.

Then it was onto the meat and drink of the day, 31 minutes taken up with a wide variety of 21 questions from the floor in which the best Jones’ answer was theatrically left until last: Was he the Messiah who can fix everything that is wrong with rugby in Australia? 

“I’m not the Messiah,” he retorted with a smile. “Everyone is in this together, we are all working in this together but sometimes you just need someone to beat the drum and that gets other people walking a bit faster and maybe that is the role at the moment, but as we go forward it is going to be about everyone working together. 

“That parent who wants to take their kid to the rugby training but Netflix or whatever is on at the moment stays at home has got to make that decision to do a bit more, so we need everyone to do it mate including yourself, including the media, we need you guys to beat the drum.”

Before that crafty sign-off bringing an end to the proceedings which were broadcast live on YouTube and Facebook by the RA social media channels, there was plenty to chew over. The legacy Jones aspires to leave when finished his contract in 2027, his reputation as a hard taskmaster, his Rugby World Cup record and how he has lost his runners-up medals, the competition for the Wallabies’ No10 position, the rivalry Australia has with the All Blacks… and so on. 

Into the conversation, Jones dropped names such as Roger Bannister, the four-minute miler, referee Mathieu Raynal and that infamous time-wasting decision last September in Melbourne, ex-Wallabies winger Lote Tuqiri and a reference to the current Australia crop needing to each bring a mirror into camp, also an old yarn about the now-retired England back-rower James Haskell. There was also the name of the book Jones is currently reading, Reconnect by Doug Lemov, which is about teaching getting kids in America to move away from the isolation of constantly being on their screens.  

The new Wallabies coach would love to see that happen in Australia but Jones knows that on-field success with Australia is needed given the current anti-rugby lie of the sporting landscape, a situation he had just experienced himself with the Matraville pupils before heading inside for his media unveiling.  

“Our target is to win the World Cup,” he said with chutzpah in his very first answer. “If we win the World Cup, it changes things for rugby in Australia, so our target is to win the World Cup and then worry about what happens after. To win the World Cup, this talented group of players is going to have to work together to make a team that has a competitive edge over the rest of the world. 

“If you look at world rugby at the moment, there are six teams not separated by a cigarette paper, they are so tight and the team that learns the most over the next nine months will be the team that lifts the William Webb Ellis trophy in Stade de France on October 28 at about 11pm and we are intending that to be us and then from that kids will want to play rugby.

“We went out to the year-seven kids there and most of them play soccer because they watch the Socceroos, they’re excited about what the Matildas are going to do in the Women’s World Cup and there was a small number of rugby. When we were at school here [his friends, the Ella brothers] it would have been the opposite. They were all rugby kids and a few kids that played soccer so we need to create role models and we need to create heroes for the young kids.”  

Chat about the All Blacks was very much on his agenda. “We are going to be chasing them down that street and we want that rivalry to be tough.” Chat about England, however, wasn’t embraced. “I can’t give you any headline there, mate.”

It was all cabaret all the way through, just like it used to entertainingly be in the early years with Jones in England. Now it is quickly down to work, the Waratahs’ trial game on Saturday versus the Brumbies in Griffith his first stop in a year of endless possibilities with Australia. Given his disastrous end-game November with England, it sure was incredible listening to him and realising how very quickly the rugby world does change.

  • Click here to watch the entire Eddie Jones introductory media briefing


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