SAINT-ETIENNE: Wallabies coach Eddie Jones admits the team’s confidence has been “knocked around” by the loss to Fiji and thinks the players will be “seeing shadows in every corner of the room”.
Jones did not shy away from the fact that this week will be one of the most challenging of his storied coaching career as he tries to lift his shell-shocked team off the canvas to meet Wales.
Another loss in Lyon on Monday (AEST) would almost certainly mean the Wallabies would fail to qualify for the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
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It could also cost Jones his job despite him being contracted with Rugby Australia through to the home World Cup in 2027.
Jones, who was sacked by England last year, has a 1-6 record since replacing Dave Rennie with the Wallabies this season.
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“This is one of the biggest challenges for this team and personally for the coaching staff,” Jones said after reviewing the loss to Fiji.
“We know how we want to play against Wales and we are going to work really hard to get the players back on track.
“When you have a loss like this it knocks you around a bit. It knocks you emotionally and team ethics wise. You start seeing shadows in every corner of the room. There is noise from outside which you have to handle. That’s the challenge for the coaching staff this week, to make sure they have got the right noise.”
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Wales is top of Pool C on 10 points after beating Fiji and Portugal.
Fiji and Australia have six points apiece and two more pool games to play – but Fiji’s are of the easier variety against Georgia and Portugal.
“We’re moving on to Wales now,” said Jones, who boasts an 11-5 career win-loss record against them, across Tests with Australia, England and Japan.
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“This is the best coaching week, best playing week. These are the weeks you remember, when you are under the pump quite a lot and you have got to produce a good performance…
“We are all still searching for answers. None of us has the 100 per cent answer. But we have ideas about where the game came unstuck. But Wales are a completely different team. They grind away at you whereas Fiji is power.”
Jones also confirmed that hooker Jordan Uelese (concussion) will miss the Wales match along with captain Will Skelton (calf) and prop Taniela Tupou.
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Australia will name its team on Friday and the big call will be whether to stick with Carter Gordon at No.10 or hand the playmaking keys to Ben Donaldson.
Andrew Kellaway could take Donaldson’s spot at fullback in that scenario.
Fiji successfully pressured Gordon into errors at ‘Le Cauldron’ and Jones was asked whether he feared Wales would do the same.
“There’s no team in the world that doesn’t target the opposition 10.
“They are the conductor of the team and if you can get to them you get to them. There’s various ways you can look after your 10 and we’ll have a look at that this week.”
The game will kick off at 5am AEST on Monday.