‘We’ve got a lot of ground to make up’: Waugh wants rugby to reconnect with fans after Eddie’s abysmal Wallabies stint

Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh is adamant the sport is still in a healthy state despite Eddie Jones’ tumultuous second stint as Wallabies coach ending with his abrupt resignation four years ahead of schedule.

The former Wallabies forward said they were devastated by their World Cup failure but was confident the team could rebuild to be a force leading into the 2027 tournament on home soil.

He accepted the board takes ultimate responsibility for the decision to bring Jones back this year which backfired spectacularly with the team not even making the World Cup quarter-finals in France.

“We’ve got a lot of ground to make up in building trust with our stakeholders and the community,” Waugh said after fronting the media on Tuesday.

“We feel the pain, we feel like we’ve let them down.

“Our focus will be reconnecting with the Australian public rather than where Eddie’s going to be.

“It’s been pretty disappointing and we’re all responsible.”

Waugh, who also reiterated that Sydney Roosters star Joseph Suaalii was committed to his three-year contract from 2-25 onwards, claimed RA had a “very strong direction and vision” and was in the process of resetting “alignment on all all high performance teams”.

“The sooner we can get to an aligned HP system the better the game is going to be,” he said.

Waugh said he “took Eddie on his word” when he denied reports when they emerged last month that he was going to jump ship.

When asked about contenders to replace Jones, he said they were open to getting “the best coach for our team” regardless of whether they are Australian or from overseas.

World Cup-winning former player Stephen Larkham and fellow ex-Wallabies assistant Dan McKellar are expected to be RA’s top targets to replace Jones.

Larkham is currently coaching the ACT Brumbies after taking over from McKellar, who is head coach at Leicester Tigers in the UK.

McKellar was Rennie’s forwards coach, and believed to be viewed as next in line to succeed the Kiwi, but resigned earlier this year when Jones was appointed to the top job.

Eddie Jones. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia officially confirmed the resignation of Jones earlier in the day.

After signing a five-year deal Jones quit the post after less than 10 months on the back of a shambolic Rugby World Cup campaign in France, where the Wallabies failed to get out of the pool stage for the first time.

They also endured record losses to Fiji and Wales, with Jones only managing two wins from his nine Tests in charge.

The 63-year-old had been heralded as the Wallabies’ saviour when he was appointed as a ‘captain’s pick’ by chairman Hamish McLennan after the axing of previous incumbent Dave Rennie.

Jones coached Australia to the World Cup final in 2003, and took England to the 2019 showpiece before being sacked late last year after a run of poor results.

But he made a series of confounding decisions on his return to the Wallabies hot-seat, including naming a young, inexperienced squad for the World Cup and leaving out long-serving skipper Michael Hooper and playmaker Quade Cooper.

Australia’s players were also rocked when Jones was linked with the Japan coaching vacancy. He was forced to deny he’d interviewed for the role just days out from the tournament opener in Paris.

Two weeks ago, Jones insisted he was “absolutely committed” to overseeing the Wallabies through to the next World Cup, on home soil in 2027. But by last weekend he had offered his resignation to the RA hierarchy.

It’s believed Jones will walk away from his hefty contract without a pay-out. He insisted he had no other international role to go to, including the Japan position which has yet to be filled.

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