MELBOURNE, May 1 (Reuters) – Australia coach Eddie Jones is yet to finalise his staff or settle on his best squad but is convinced the Wallabies have more than enough time to transform themselves into World Cup winners by the time the tournament kicks off in France.
The Wallabies slumped to seventh in the rankings under former coach Dave Rennie but Jones said they could emulate South Africa, who became world champions for a third time at the 2019 tournament in Japan after years of struggle.
“We’re seven and so we’ve got work to do to get to number one, because we want to be number one,” Jones told reporters at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Monday as Rugby Australia launched ticket sales for the Rugby Championship.
“We understand what the gap is and that it’ll take the coaching staff and the players to work hard and to work smart to fill the gap.
“And we saw South Africa in 2018, 2017. They were winning games at less than 40%.
“And they went on to win the World Cup in 2019. So in a short period of time, you could change the team remarkably, you could change an individual remarkably … And that’s the job.”
With the World Cup starting on Sept. 8, a number of jigsaw pieces have yet to fall into place for Jones, who still lacks an attack coach or an overall forwards coach on his staff to help engineer a Wallabies turnaround.
Jones said he hoped to announce one or two appointments in coming days but declined to elaborate on the candidates or the nature of the roles.
Jones has also pushed Rugby Australia to tweak the ‘Giteau Law’ – the Wallabies’ selection policy for players based overseas which currently limits him to three picks per series or tournament.
“It’s moving in a positive direction,” he said.
“We’ve got to make a selection for the first Rugby Championship and that’s obviously the first test.”
Australia start their international season against South Africa in Pretoria on July 8 before home tests against Michael Cheika’s Argentina in Sydney and New Zealand in Melbourne.
With the first test in just over two months, picking a standout flyhalf remains a vexing question for Jones – as it was for his predecessors Rennie and Cheika.
After four years in the international wilderness, Quade Cooper returned to lead Australia to six victories in 2021 and 2022 but injuries kept him out of all but one test last year, when he ruptured his Achilles in the win over Argentina.
Japan-based Cooper made a tactical return to his club side Kintetsu Liners last month, taking the field for only a minute to ensure he can be selected for League One’s promotion-relegation series starting this week.
Jones said he had caught up with Cooper and Japan-based centre Samu Kerevi during a recent visit to the country.
“He ran on well and ran off well, so that’s a start,” Jones remarked dryly.
“I went and saw him last week out at Kintetsu … He’s due to play in a couple of weeks.
“He’s progressing really nicely, Kerevi’s progressing really nicely.
“We’ve got a number of players coming back so it’s really promising.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford
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