Rugby World Cup 2023: crushed by Wales, Australia is almost eliminated

According to the Rhône prefecture, the seismic risk is moderate, even low, in the department

Rugby World Cup 2023: crushed by Wales, Australia is almost eliminated

According to the Rhône prefecture, the seismic risk is moderate, even low, in the department. There is room for doubt. Sunday September 24, the shockwave of the defeat (6-40) of the Wallabies against Wales, at the Groupama Stadium in Lyon, was felt nearly 17,000 kilometers away, at the other end of the Earth, on the island continent of Australia.

This match of fear between two former glories of international rugby, in difficulty for several years, promised an indecisive encounter. The suspense only lasted half-time. The Red Dragons knew how to exploit the naivety of the Wallabies, who conceded far too many penalties to hope for a better fate.

In this disaster, the absences due to injury of the two Australian captains, the right pillar Taniela Tupou and, above all, the captain Will Skelton, weighed heavily. With an average age of 25 years and 10 months, the Australian team is one of the youngest in the tournament. All of its thirty-three players have only 455 caps. Alone, pillar James Slipper (132 caps) has more caps than the entire pack combined. In short, kids.

In a country where televisions broadcast more rugby league and Australian football matches, some young Wallabies have not yet mastered all the subtleties of the XV game. Like third row center Rob Valetini, who, forgetting his support, dove in the 48th minute on a loose ball, offering yet another penalty to Warren Gatland's men. They took advantage of the opportunity and returned to the locker room with a ten-point lead (16-6).

The words of Eddie Jones, the Australian coach, renowned for his toughness, were probably not kind during the break. They obviously did not bear fruit because if the first period of the Australian XV was mediocre, the second was catastrophic. In forty minutes, the Welsh inflicted a severe 24-0 on the Wallabies. In the media box at Groupama Stadium, one word echoed over and over in the mouths of Australian journalists commenting on the match: “humiliation”.

With two losses in three matches, Australia is virtually eliminated. This is a historic defeat. In nine appearances at the World Cup, this country, double winner of the Webb Ellis Trophy (in 1991 and 1999), has never been eliminated in the group stage. The present remains in order because the elimination of the Wallabies is not yet certain, but it would take a small miracle to avoid it, for example a defeat for Fiji against Georgia or Portugal.

Eddie Jones in an ejection seat

According to Australian media, Eddie Jones could quickly be fired. However, in January he signed a five-year contract with the Australian federation, with his sights set on the 2027 World Cup, organized at home. If there is a dismissal, it should not be announced in the coming days because the Australians still have one match to play in this tournament, on October 1, in Saint-Etienne, against Portugal. Their way of the cross is not finished.

In fact, Eddie Jones' record is very bad, with seven defeats in eight matches since his return to the helm of the Australian XV (which he had already led between 2001 and 2005). A charismatic coach with a sharp sense of humor, this former hooker is a fan of the “umbrella” strategy. He does not hesitate to take criticism upon himself in order to protect his young players and give them time to grow. A tactic which is turning against him today because he has become a target for the media in his country.

Eddie Jones has said it time and time again: forcefully rejuvenating the team is undoubtedly painful in the short term, but it is the only way for the Wallabies to be competitive in four years. A method which is also not without points in common with that put in place by Fabien Galthié upon his appointment at the head of the XV of France, in 2019.

Despite everything, some of Eddie Jones' choices raise questions. His decision to take only one professional opener to France, the young Carter Gordon (22), was a failure. The suit of playing master of Australia in a World Cup was too big for the fly-half of the Melbourne Rebels, a good club player but almost without experience at the high international level. After two complicated matches, the Australian coach decided to replace him with fullback Ben Donaldson, who did not do much better.

According to Australian media, Eddie Jones was auditioned a few days before the start of the World Cup in France to become Japan coach, replacing the current holder, New Zealander Jamie Joseph. A rumor denied by the person concerned, but which shows to what extent the former hooker has become a target for the media in his country, who did not hesitate to throw away the amount of his salary, estimated at 4.5 million Australian dollars per year (€2.7 million).

Fly-half Dan Biggar injured

With three victories in as many matches, Wales are qualified for the quarter-finals. If he scored “only” three tries this evening – four are needed to obtain the offensive bonus point – the XV du Poireau is now eight points ahead of second in Group C, Fiji.

However, the future of the Welsh does not seem bright. The Red Dragons could have lost their playing master this evening for the rest of the competition with the injury of their fly-half Dan Biggar in the 11th minute. It is Gareth Anscombe, the Ospreys fly-half, who will have the difficult task of replacing the RC Toulon player. In the quarters, the Welsh could cross paths with England or Argentina.