New Wallabies coach Eddie Jones says international rugby union can turn around very quickly, and that after a “reasonably rough period”, Australia is one of a handful of chances to win the Rugby World Cup if they get the next nine months right.

Speaking to ABC Sport after his first week back in charge of the national team, Jones discussed the challenge ahead for this year’s tournament, his coaching philosophy, the volatility of world rugby and a range of other issues. 

Jones said he had spent the week meeting staff, watching game footage, speaking to senior players on Zoom and generally hitting the ground running in his new role.

Asked if he was allowing himself to think long-term, as far as the opportunities for the next Rugby World Cup on home soil in 2027, he replied:

“The only thing I’m worrying about, I’ve got it written here on my board is ‘smash-and-grab’.

“That’s the only thing at the moment – if we do well [at this year’s tournament] then, there’ll be another project after that, but as you know in professional sport and professional radio … if you do too many bad interviews you’re not on next week!

“It’s the same in coaching. If you don’t have too many good games, you’re not going to be there [long-term]. I’m not looking ahead so far [to 2027].”

Jones follows Dave Rennie as coach of the Wallabies.

His predecessor won just 13 games out of 34 in charge, but Jones — who said Rennie did “an extremely good job in difficult circumstances” — was optimistic about the future for the team.

“I think Australian rugby has always been a bit cyclical. We’ve had some really good periods and we’ve had some pretty rough periods — and I think we’ve been through a reasonably rough period (recently) but I can see there’s a turning of the tide,” he said.

“We’ve got a chairman here at Rugby Australia who’s aggressive, who wants to get on with it – there’s some growth in the sport and there’s decline in some areas, we’ve just got to make sure that at the top level, with the Wallabies we provide some inspiration for more kids to play the game.”

There has been plenty of debate already about this year’s World Cup being wide open, with the chance of a Northern Hemisphere team winning for only the second time ever. Jones agreed, but pointed to the last time the tournament was held as a signal of how quickly things can change.

“The evidence is there. It’s like six horses coming over the rise at Randwick [racecourse], you get to the top of the rise and some horses start to shorten their stride and others start to lengthen — that’s where we’re at at the moment,” Jones said.

South African rugby union players celebrate with the Webb Ellis Cup on a podium after beating England.
South Africa ruined England’s Rugby World Cup hopes in the final four years ago — Eddie Jones says the Springboks show how teams can turn things around quickly.(AP: Christophe Ena)

“You look at South Africa in 2019, in 2018 they had a winning percentage of under 40 per cent. By 2019 they win the World Cup, which I well remember.”

“And sport now in every sport, it’s more volatile, because of HIA, because of TMO, because of red cards, because of yellow cards.

“So it’s the team that adapts, that learns the most over the next nine months that will be the ones holding up the William Webb Ellis Cup.”

Jones is an experienced international coach, with stints in charge of Japan, England and assisting with South Africa as well as Australia.

He started off in club rugby with Randwick, and he still views the attacking style of the ‘Galloping Greens” as at the heart of his coaching.

“Rugby’s rugby. You’ve got a group of players, I’ve got an idea of how I love to play the game, which generally comes from the club you were brought up with, which [in my case] was Randwick, which was running rugby,” he said.

“But any time you get a new team, you try to assess the players, find out what their strengths are — particularly in a national team, where we’ve only got them for a short period of time.

“Then [you] develop a style that suits the players, firstly, then you try to coach them towards your philosophy. But only if their strengths match that [philosophy].”

Jones said it would take him a few months to assess the team and work out the balance that was needed before deciding on a captain to take the Wallabies to France for the Rugby World Cup.

Asked about the possibility of players breaking into the Wallabies line-up in a Rugby World Cup year, Jones said he would be watching for talent in Super Rugby, starting with this weekend’s Waratahs vs Brumbies trial at Griffith.

“What I want to see in Super Rugby is players saying ‘pick me! I’m playing that well you’ve got to pick me. You’d be crazy [not to]”, he said.

“What we’d ideally like to have is winning Super Rugby teams, they come in, they’re full of beans, they’ve had a good Super Rugby season and want to continue that with the Wallabies.

“2014 is the last time we won the Super Rugby when it included New Zealand, and 2015 we made the final of the World Cup. There’s a reason for that, and we want those Super Rugby teams beating the drum, it all starts in the first round.”