Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh has said he and other board members would have to live with the ill-fated decision to hire Eddie Jones, after the organisation confirmed the embattled coach has quit his post.
Jones oversaw the worst World Cup performance in Wallabies history at the tournament in France, 10 months after he had been recruited by RA on a five-year contract in a blaze of publicity.
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“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” Waugh said. “I think that when you make decisions at any time, during your career, you get presented information at the time and you make decisions based on that information. And where we ended up was clearly not good enough.”
Waugh – who has led rugby union in Australia since June and was on the RA board prior to his appointment as CEO – endured 37 minutes of interrogation from reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
He said RA had been working through a deed of release with Jones in recent days, delaying confirmation of his departure. But he would not confirm any specific payout of the separation, only that it left Australia in “a very good situation financially” and that he thought “we ended up at a sensible outcome”.
“We are financially challenged and certainly the way Eddie conducted himself and understanding the circumstances of where rugby Australia is, it was a good outcome for Rugby Australia.”
Jones will officially leave his post on 25 November, with four years remaining on his contract.
Waugh said he and the RA board must take responsibility for the appointment, and the sport’s governance framework means there may be consequences for individuals.
“Clearly the performances of the team and the results that we delivered weren’t up to the expectation of anyone – and clearly the lowest that we’d had in the World Cup – so unfortunately, the board made some bold calls, and there’s no doubt that there’s disappointment.”
Jones’s departure comes after a shambolic World Cup campaign during which the Wallabies failed to get out of the group stage for the first time in the team’s history. Heavy defeats came against Fiji and Wales and Jones ended his second stint in Australian rugby’s top job with a total of just two wins and seven defeats.
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RA have been left searching for a new coach who will be charged with rebuilding the team and the sport’s reputation before the 2027 Rugby World Cup on home soil.
But Waugh said the process for finding a replacement would not be rushed, given the Wallabies’ next Test is not until July.
“We have time and the most important aspect now is reconnecting with the Australian public and the community and then making sure we land on the right coach.”
RA will appoint a panel to oversee the selection process, with World Cup winner Stephen Larkham and fellow former Wallabies assistant Dan McKellar expected to be top targets.