Rugby Australia appoint Eddie Jones as Wallabies head coach on five-year deal

Eddie Jones concluded his time as England head coach with a 73 per cent winning record
©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Just over a month from his sacking as England boss, Eddie Jones has replaced Australia coach Dave Rennie on a five-year deal which will conclude after the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

It will be the 62-year-old’s second stint in charge of the Wallabies after holding the same position between 2001, taking the nation to a Rugby World Cup final in 2003, taking over from New Zealander, Rennie, who led the side for three seasons.

It is a sensational move by Australia, their decision to sack Rennie a culmination of a poor 2022, where the side finished third in the Rugby Championship, lost a home Test Series to Jones’s England, and suffered defeats at the hands of France, Italy and Ireland in the Autumn Nations Series.

At the conclusion of his time at the helm of the Wallabies, Rennie had a 38 per cent winning rate, the availability of Jones – who concluded his time as England coach with a 73 per cent winning rate after seven years – enticing the union’s bosses to make a move

“There’s more of a risk not doing something about it when the opportunity presented itself,” Hamish McLennan, Rugby Australia chairman, told the Sydney Morning Herald. “We stumble during the spring tour. The world changed when Eddie got let go.”

Australia now join England and Wales in replacing their head coach with a short space of time to go before the World Cup.

In the Rugby Australia statement announcing Jones as the Wallabies new head coach, McLennan described the appointment as a “major coup” and that the 62-year-old “instinctively understands the Australian way of playing rugby”, the powers that be clearly enthused by their work.

Since his dismissal in December, Jones has been the subject of much speculation. There were links to a return to the Japan national team, to the USA and even a stint as a pundit for ITV’s coverage of the World Cup later this year.

Pooled with Wales, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal later this year in France, Australia are ranked sixth in the world by World Rugby, the side real outsiders to add a third Webb Ellis Cup to their collection by the end of 2023.

Without a real cutting edge and having a domestic competition which has seemingly stagnated, it will be an uphill battle from the off, but a five-year contract will give Jones more than enough time to create a team of contenders by the time 2027 rolls around.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to come home to Australia and lead my nation to a Rugby World Cup,” Jones said.

“It is going to be an immense period for Australian rugby – as a proud Australian, it is a great honour to be able to come home and lead the national team during these years.

“The Wallabies squad is a really talented group of players with good depth – if we can have everyone fit and healthy going into the World Cup this year, I am confident that we can go to France and break the 24-year drought of winning the Rugby World Cup.”

As part of his return to the Australia setup, Jones will also oversee the Wallaroos as Rugby Australia pushes towards professionalism, the side just several months removed from a quarter-final finish at the 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Jones could well come back to haunt England at the World Cup. With Australia in Pool C and England in Pool D, the winners or runners-up of those groups will meet in the quarter-final stages in mid-October.

Still living in the UK, Jones will take up his new role on January 29 and will have eight months and six matches to get his new squad in fighting shape for the Rugby World Cup, his first game set to be against current world champions South Africa at Loftus Versfeld in July.

Opinions from TRU’s Joe Harvey

You will no doubt remember the video posted after England won their Test series decider against Australia in the summer, where a punter at the Sydney Cricket Ground branded Jones as a “traitor”.

It’s funny how quickly things change.

From the moment of his sacking by the Rugby Football Union, Jones’s reinstatement as Australia boss had some inevitability about it.

Rennie’s Wallabies had never quite taken the leap, their wins over France and Australia in 2021 significant opportunities to take the leap towards being a major competitor in France in 2023 but will only ever appear in the rear-view mirror as one-off results.

Jones will certainly bring the cutting edge to the Wallabies that they have not had in recent times, the 62-year-old’s former fly-half, Matt Giteau saying that “some of the boys won’t know what hit them” in the wake of the appointment.

Taking charge of the side from January 29, you have to think what the powers that be at Twickenham are thinking.

Rugby Australia’s announcement came roughly 12 hours before Jones’s protégé, Steve Borthwick, announces his first ever England squad ahead of the upcoming Guinness Six Nations, well and truly putting a fox in the hen house.

Even now, 10 months removed from the quarter-finals of the World Cup, there is a growing sense of dread that Jones may well reap his revenge on England should they meet in France.

The end of his time as England boss was challenging to say the least. Reports of a fractured relationship between him and the RFU board, as well as contentious relationships with coaches and players contributing to his premature departure.

Add to that a first losing calendar year since 2008 for England and the stage was set for an exit. 

Throughout the booing at the conclusion of 80 minutes and increasing frustration with the media’s questioning, the Australian maintained that he would help England win a World Cup.

It is that adamant and consistent belief in that fact which will hang over England’s head this year. Progressing under Borthwick will certainly put some of those thoughts to bed, but with the likelihood of the two nations meeting, it raises the heart rate somewhat.

However you look at it, this is an incredibly shrewd bit of business by Rugby Australia. Securing Jones’s services for five years is a major coup, the 62-year-old clearly having the drive to lead his nation at another home World Cup and all the capability to create a side which will seriously compete.

As with anything the proof will be in the pudding, it is certainly another storyline to keep an eye on this year, the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour and in 2027 when the pinnacle of the game reached Australia’s shores once again.