Wallabies coach Eddie Jones remains adamant he has “no regrets” about taking a squad packed with inexperience to the World Cup despite a shock loss to Fiji which has placed Australia’s campaign on life support.
Former co-captain James Slipper, the most experience player in the squad, also said the players were “calm and measured” in the changerooms after the 22-15 loss, during which the Wallabies gave up 18 penalties and missed 23 tackles, despite knowing a loss to Wales in the next match will end chance of progression to the quarter-finals.
It was the first time since 1954 the Wallabies had lost to Fiji and with injuries also hitting the Australians – prop Taniela Tupou has a hamstring issues and captain Will Skelton watched the match from the sidelines wearing a moon boot – and Jones was even booed by the crowd during the match.
Jones admitted neither of the injured stars would be available for the next must-win clash against Wales.
The coach, who was appointed for four years but has won just one of seven matches since assuming control, defended his decision to take a broom to the previous squad, failing to pick players including former captain Michael Hooper, and go with a first choice No.10 in Carter Gordon who is yet to play 10 tests with no seasoned back-up.
He said Australian rugby needed to change, that was his plan, and he wouldn’t shy away from it despite the potential for an ugly early World Cup exit.
“I made the decision to go for a younger team and if that‘s the wrong decision then I will be held accountable for that,” he said.
“But I think Australian rugby needs to move on to a younger team. I am prepared to go through some pain to leave Australia with a team capable of doing really well in a World Cup.
“That‘s not to say we can’t do it, we’ve had a bit of a setback today but that’s all part of being in a World Cup.
“I do remember South Africa lost a game and won a World Cup, so funny things have happened.”
Jones said he probably deserved the jeers he got from the crowd.
“After that I probably deserved more, mate,” he said.
“They should be throwing baguettes, croissants at me. I deserve whatever I get.”
Victory would have all but assured the Wallabies a place in the quarter-finals.
Now they have to win their two remaining pool games against Wales and Portugal to have any chance of progressing, with bonus points looming as a possible deciding factor.
The next match is not the only focus according to Slipper.
“We‘re all calm and measured in the changing room. We know what’s coming is another big game against Wales,” he said.
“So you can kick stones for half an hour or so but now it’s about getting better.”
The Wallabies scored two tries to one and Jones said his men “dominated” the starts but were a “poor version of ourselves”
“So there‘s a bit of soul-searching to do, but it makes the Wales game pretty important,” he said.
Originally published as Eddie Jones defends young player selection after shock World Cup loss to Fiji