One pool game loss hasn’t ended previous World Cup campaigns for the Wallabies and last weekend’s shock loss to Fiji is not their end in France according to a raft of defiant players who know it’s up to them to turn things around against Wales.
Embattled coach Eddie Jones put his hand up and tried to take all the blame for the first loss to the Fijians since 1954, with his selections coming under fire, particularly inexperienced fly-half Carter Gordon, whom he yanked from the field just after halftime.
Jones has been urged to send an SOS to experienced playmaker Quade Cooper, having gone to France without a clear back-up for Gordon, while injuries to captain Will Skelton and star prop Taniela Tupou have made the Wallabies campaign even harder.
The Wallabies have to beat Wales to be any chance of progression to the quarter-finals, but former co-captain James Slipper, at his fourth World Cup, knows a single pool game loss, albeit a shocking one, is not the end of the world.
Australia made the 2011 semi-final and 2019 quarter-final despite pool defeats and wins over first Wales and then Portugal in the final match would ensure the Wallabies quest would continue.
“It’s not the first time I’ve lost in a pool stage either. These things happen,” Slipper said after the loss to Fiji.
“The important thing is it’s all about the next game. You say that when you win, you say that when you lose. I know that’s a pretty boring line to use, but at the end of the day, that’s what is important, the Wales game.”
Flanker Fraser McReight said Jones trying to take all the blame showed he was trying to “protect his team and his players” and it was their turn to shoulder some responsibility.
He even said the players were “flying” before the Fiji game and could find their groove again.
“We respect that but I don’t think it’s on him,” McReight said.
“It‘s on us, we’re the ones playing. The whole coaching staff actually prepped us really well. We had a really good week of training to be honest, boys were flying.
“Obviously, we had a few little niggles there through some injuries, but we still had a great few sessions. We’ve just got to be better.”
The Wallabies have only won one of six Tests in 2023 after Jones took the helm for a second time and took a broom through squad, with pressure intensifying ahead of Monday morning’s must-win clash with Wales.
But lock Richie Arnold said a World Cup demanded players move on fast, and while confidence had been hit, the players had to bounce back.
“It makes it easier for us next week. We must win and that’s it,” he said.
“It comes down to the players. We have to review the game individually and have a look at our own games and it’s all down to the players at the end of the day. We’ve got a good group here and we’ve got to believe that we can turn it around next week.”
“At the end of the day, we can’t kick stones too long. We’ve just got to get on with it. It makes it easy for us next week, we must win. And that’s it. It’s as easy at that.”
Originally published as Players adamant coach Eddie Jones not to blame for World Cup loss