‘Almost a volunteer’: Eddie reveals love, not money, drove Wallabies return

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Eddie Jones says he is “almost a volunteer” on his salary as Wallabies coach but he took the job to help lift Australian rugby out of a dark place, and believes the key to resurrecting the team’s success is playing “like mongrel dogs”.

In his first media appearance in London since he was sacked as England coach in December, Jones spoke to reporters about a wide range of topics ahead of a Barbarians game against a World XV on Sunday.

Jones, who is coaching the Barbarians, was a picture of nonchalance in his first trip back to Twickenham, saying he wasn’t concerned about the reception he’d get and that he held no animosity toward the RFU bosses who sacked him.

“I don’t hold any grudges against anyone. I have moved on. If they are not moved on that’s their problem, not my problem,” Jones said.

As is his way, Jones bantered with the media and held court on a number of issues, including the ailing health of club and provincial “shopfront” rugby in most parts of the world, his belief that kicking won’t be a key strategy to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup and that Super Rugby would be better with South Africans teams still in it.

Eddie Jones at Barbarians training in London.Credit: Getty

But of most interest to Australian fans, Jones also pointed to the likely World Cup selections of Will Skelton and Quade Cooper — labelling the latter as “like Dan Carter” — and gave interesting insights to the English press about why he took the Wallabies job.

“When the opportunity came I jumped at it because rugby is in a fairly dark place and needs a bit of energy, needs a bit of direction and I can only do my bit coaching the national team but obviously I can do a job selling the game there, which I have taken on, so I am enjoying it,” Jones said.

“We definitely bought a rugby league player to get back in the shop window, that is 100 per cent true and now people are talking about rugby again. Then the other bits are just a bit of fun.”

Jones pointed to the Wallabies job being a passion project given one nation had offered him the same salary as Rugby Australia but for a less-involved role, presumably as a director of rugby.

Jones was the highest-paid coach in world rugby with England, on a salary of $A1.5 million a year, but he suggested he had taken a haircut to return to the Wallabies job, which is believed to have a base salary of $750,000 a year.

Eddie Jones will be back at Twickenham on Sunday to take on the World XV.Credit: Getty

“Post-England I always knew there were possibilities. There was a country that was going to pay me as much as I’m getting — look, I’m almost a volunteer in Australia — that was going to pay me as much not to coach. So, there was always going to be a job there,” Jones said.

Jones said the No.7-ranked Wallabies had the talent to be successful at the World Cup and he was invigorated by the challenge of doing it in a short space of time.

Quade Cooper back in action at Barbarians training in London.Credit: Getty

“It is about raising the expectation of the players because their expectation has been too low and we need to raise it,” Jones said.

“We need to work a bit harder and need to create a style of rugby that is quintessentially Australian. We have been copying other teams and that is not the Australian way.”

Pressed on what the Australian way entailed, Jones said: “It is more about intent. Australians, in whichever sport they play, are much better when they are aggressive, when they are positive, when they are in the face of the opposition, we are doing it our way and we are at the opposition with numbers at the line in attack and defence like mongrel dogs running around and that is where we are at our best.”

The form of Skelton in European rugby hasn’t escaped Jones’ attention; the giant lock won his fourth European Cup at the weekend, with a dominant performance for La Rochelle. One pundit labelled Skelton the best northern hemisphere import player ever.

“I have seen parts of the (final) but he was enormous,” Jones said. “You look at the World Cup, probably up to the quarter-finals they are going to be pretty quick games, flat pitches, sun shining but you know once you get to [the] Stade de France, heavy atmosphere, heavy pitch and it becomes a set-piece contest and having a right-hand side lock like him is a big advantage.”

Jones also heaped praise on Cooper, who will play for the Barbarians along with Samu Kerevi; two Wallabies in the early stages of returning from major injuries.

“They haven’t played a lot together so it’s a really good opportunity for those two to work together. It’s exciting, the back line we could have. Power and pace, it’s frightening,” Jones said.

“I look at (Cooper) like Dan Carter. He is a different sort of player but just from the maturity point of view.

“I last coached Quade (for Queensland in 2007) when he was a young swashbuckling, loose-as-you-can-be No 10 out of high school. Now he is a mature, serious, looks-after-his-body-like-a-temple rugby player with a good command of how he wants to play the game.”

Jones dismissed Hansen’s theory that Australia have dream World Cup run, with none of the world’s top five teams on their side of the draw.

“I don’t buy into that. Having been to a fair few World Cups every quarter-final is tough every semi-final is tough and every final is tough. So I don’t understand that rationale,” he said.

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