PARIS – Eddie Jones’ future is on tenterhooks, with one of his closest allies, Wallabies manager Chris Webb, let go by Rugby Australia.
Since the Wallabies’ ugly World Cup flop, the governing body has had two waves of cleanouts over the past month.
The first came in the days after the Wallabies’ pool exit earlier this month. The next has come over the past week.
The vast majority of Jones’ high-performance structure now no longer exists, including the several psychologists that were brought in to try and change the mindset of the Wallabies after years of underperformance.
That is because most were only ever signed on short-term deals given the hasty arrival of Jones as head coach.
Respected Wallabies forwards coach Neal Hatley remains contracted until the end of November. Even now, the UK-based coach is preparing for next year’s July Tests, which includes two Tests against Wales.
It’s believed he will meet with Jones over the next fortnight, with the Wallabies coach to oversee the Barbarians’ exhibition match against Wales in Cardiff.
The latest person to finish up is Webb, the high-performance specialist who served under Jones during the Wallabies coach’s first iteration with the national team. Webb spent time under former Wallabies coach John Connolly and at the Waratahs, too.
Webb was brought back to the Wallabies alongside Dave Rennie following the 2019 World Cup, but following their disastrous season and spiralling financial costs has been let go.
Like Jones, he has close ties to Japanese Rugby, where he works with Toshiba as an advisor.
How his exit effects Jones’ future remains to be seen.
Contracted through until 2027, Jones’ future has been the talk of the town for the past six months ever since stating on the Evening Standard podcast with Lawrence Dallaglio that he planned on leaving his role as Wallabies coach following the 2023 Word Cup. Even before then, rumours were swirling that he would leave.
The uncertainty surrounding his future has gone into overdrive over the past six weeks following a bombshell report linking him to a return to the Japan Rugby Football Union as Jamie Joseph’s replacement as head coach.
Jones insists he has had no contact with the JFRU despite reports saying he will participate in a second interview for the vacant role. The Roar, however, believes Kubota’s maiden Japan League One-winning head coach Frans Ludeke, who previously led the Bulls to consecutive Super Rugby titles, is the favourite to replace Joseph.
Before signing on as Wallabies coach, Jones was assured the game’s finances would be supercharged through an injection from private equity and reform measures to allow for greater alignment.
Neither have taken place yet despite the five Australian Super Rugby franchises in principle supporting high-performance alignment.
It’s understood Jones has clauses that allow him to walk away from the Wallabies coaching job at the end of 2023. The lack of progress with the Super states, as well as the inability to bring in new revenue, could see Jones run out of patience and instead walk.
The Roar understands that RA, too, has the ability to farewell Jones without paying him out in full should they determine he is no longer the right person to continue to lead the Wallabies.
Without a Test until the middle of next year, RA is waiting for Jones to play his next card before revealing their hand.
The unease across the Australian rugby landscape wasn’t on show on Wednesday night, as RA hosted a ‘Golden Decade Cocktail Event’ at the Australian Embassy to usher through the start of the runway into the 2025 Lions series and home 2027 World Cup.
The event saw a who’s who of rugby descend on the doorstep of the Eiffel Tower, with World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont and World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin in attendance. Others included Rugby Football Union boss Bill Sweeney, while New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson was also there.
The cocktail event occurred 24 hours after the World Rugby Council voted through the first global calendar and Nations Championship. It also voted to delay the 2027 World Cup start date by a fortnight to allow some clean air and space from the NRL and AFL finals.
Waugh left the event early, with the RA CEO on the last flight out of Paris homebound for Sydney.
He will return to Australia with the governing body under pressure from its stakeholders who want answers, including whether Jones will be coach in 2024, around the game’s future.
Conducting the review will be priority number one for Waugh.
Finalising who takes over as RA’s new high-performance manager is high on the priority list too.
Negotiating their next broadcast deal is likely to continue well into next year, too.
RA chairman Hamish McLennan is hoping for a significant uplift from the $29 million-a-year deal they are currently receiving.
It’s highly likely the broadcast deal will be taken to market next year, with Foxtel, Channel 7 and Channel 10 in the reckoning should Nine/Stan attempt to lowball RA.
It’s hoped that the Nations Cup and expanded Rugby Championship from 2026 will help their bid.