Former Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O’Neill has called on Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan to directly ask Japan officials whether Eddie Jones has interviewed for the country’s head coaching role next year to clear up confusion over the Wallabies coach’s future.
O’Neill said RA must seek clarity after the Herald revealed Jones took part in a secret Zoom interview with Japan Rugby Football Union officials just days before Australia’s failed World Cup campaign in France.
Jones, who signed a five-year deal with RA through to 2027 in January of this year, has denied the interview took place and has repeatedly said he is not part of a formal process to become Brave Blossoms coach next year.
The Herald and other news outlets in Australia, Japan and the UK have reported that Jones is to participate in a second interview in Japan next month.
Jones, however, told RA chief executive Phil Waugh that he wants to stay on as Wallabies coach despite a horror year in charge which yielded seven losses from nine Tests. Australia’s only victories came against tier-two countries Georgia and Portugal as the Wallabies were bundled out of the World Cup in the pool stages.
In an interview with 2GB last week, Waugh said that RA had not checked with its Japanese counterparts to confirm whether Jones had flagged interest in the role he previously held from 2012 to 2015.
“It’s not my responsibility to speculate or go and talk to the Japanese Rugby Football Union and ask them whether they’ve met with Eddie,” Waugh told 2GB.
O’Neill, however, disagrees and says he is not the only one in the Australian rugby fraternity who believes the game’s leaders must go through the front door to get answers.
“As it turns out, all the powerbrokers in world rugby are in Paris this week,” said O’Neill, who had two stints as ARU boss, from 1995 to 2003 then from 2007 to 2012. “As is the custom, there will be social events, meetings and endless opportunities to converse.
“RA and the JRFU have enjoyed a terrific relationship for many years. It’s in no one’s interest for that to be damaged and in my opinion it’s an ideal opportunity for Hamish McLennan as chair of RA to have a discreet conversation with his counterpart, Mr Tsuchida [president of the JRFU], to ensure that they have both have a shared understanding [around Jones and his coaching intentions].
“Australian rugby and its supporters are still in a world of pain and absorbing the worst performance by the Wallabies in Rugby World Cup history. As if that pain isn’t bad enough, we have a lot of uncertainty about the future.”
O’Neill was asked whether McLennan, who effectively made the call to sack Dave Rennie in January and hire Jones on a five-year deal, should reveal the nature of that conversation to fans and stakeholders.
“Depending on how that conversation goes, Hamish will be in a position one way or another to inform his constituents and remove the uncertainty that currently exists,” said O’Neill, who was Jones’ boss during the coach’s first Wallabies tenure two decades ago.
McLennan and Waugh are both still in France and will return to Australia after this weekend’s World Cup final in Paris between New Zealand and South Africa.
McLennan was contacted for comment.
Source : SMH