Eddie to walk the blank for Wallabies

Head coach Eddie Jones said he will continue to protect his players even if he becomes the “fall guy” for Australia’s dismal World Cup campaign.

A record defeat to Wales last week and a first loss to Fiji in 69 years the week before have left the Wallabies hopes of reaching the knockout stages in tatters ahead of their final Pool C match against Portugal on Sunday.

If Fiji beat Georgia with a bonus point the day before, Australia’s tournament will be over even before the players lace up their boots in Saint Etienne.

“If there needs to be a fall guy for the World Cup then it’s obviously me,” said Jones. “When you become the head coach of a team you take on that responsibility.

“The playing group has been absolutely fantastic, I couldn’t ask any more from them. So, therefore, if there needs to be someone responsible for the performance, that’s pretty self-explanatory.”

Australia were struggling before Jones returned to the helm for a second stint in January, having lost 12 of their previous 17 Tests at that point.

However, things have only got worse under Jones, with the Australians losing seven of his eight Tests, and their only victory came against Tier 2 Georgia in their opening World Cup match.

“I love coaching and I love a challenge and that’s the reason I came back to Australia, because I wanted to make a difference,” said the 63-year-old, who has also coached England and Japan at World Cups.

“I apologise because I haven’t made a difference but I wanted to make a difference. I was disappointed with how the Wallabies were going and I wanted to come back and make it change.”

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Jones refuses to blame the players for their poor displays and said he will continue to take the flak for them.

“You take James Slipper out of our squad and you’ve got an average test cap of 20,” said Jones. “It’s a very young team so I want to protect them at this stage. When your child is three or four you want to protect them.

“When they get to eight or nine, ten or 12, there’s a different way of parenting and I feel this is the best way at the moment.”

As for how he’s planning on turning things around, Jones said all options were on the table. “We’re looking at changing everything. We’re trying to find out what works and doesn’t work,” he said.

“We’ve trained really well but we’re not getting the results and sometimes the scoreboard is the last thing that changes, and that’s hard to take and I know it’s hard to understand but sometimes that’s just the case.”

For captain David Porecki, Australia’s pride is at stake: “We’re focusing on what we can do this weekend which is putting out a performance that we’re proud of and finishing on a high.

Jones has picked a strong 23 for the clash against a Portugal side on a high after their dramatic 18-18 draw with Georgia last time out.

He made only three changes to his staring XV while Portugal’s head coach Patrize Lagisquet has made four changes to his pack.

© Agence France-Presse

Photo: World Rugby

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