Wallabies skipper Will Skelton says the team remains united behind coach Eddie Jones, whose future is uncertain following Australia’s disastrous World Cup campaign.
Jones’s job will depend on a review by Rugby Australia after the France tournament, which has produced the worst-ever World Cup result with the side on the verge of being eliminated at the pool stage for the first time.
They suffered a record 40-6 loss to Wales and must now front up next Sunday (Monday AEDT) for their final pool match against world No.16 Portugal, who will fancy their chances of an upset in Saint-Etienne.
Barring any miracle results from Fiji’s final two matches, the Wallabies will be on their way home before the play-offs in Marseille.
Fans were already calling for Jones’s head with the veteran coach forced to deny he had already interviewed to take over as Japan coach after the tournament despite signing a five-year deal with Australia.
Skelton said while he hadn’t directly asked Jones about Japan, he believed the coach was committed through to the next World Cup in 2027 in Australia.
“That’s something that has been knocked on the head – Eddie has denied it so we have full trust in him,” Skelton told reporters in Lyon on Monday.
“I heard the press conference (after the Wales match) and I trust him in what he says. He’s a man of his word and he has the full support of the group.”
The veteran lock, who is based in France with Top 14 side La Rochelle, and has also played in the UK as well as Australia, rated Jones as one of the best.
“I think he’s a fantastic coach with a massive rugby IQ and we’re learning every day when we’re working with him … he simplifies the game for us,” the 31-year-old said.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t perform up to those standards to really show that coaching that’s been happening in the last few months.
“That’s on the players and that’s on us owning that and putting our hands up as well.”
He backed Jones’s long-term plan for the Wallabies, which meant picking youth over experience at the global showpiece which left the side painfully exposed.
Skelton said the coach was different behind closed doors than the polarising persona he presented in public.
“His long-term vision and what he wants Australian rugby to be back to, I think that’s a positive,” Skelton said.
“The way he is around the group, I think you see in the media, he has his persona but when you see him one-to-one in front of the team, how he speaks, how he interacts, the boys follow him and I do as well.”
Skelton missed playing against the Welsh and also in the loss to Fiji after injuring his calf at training following their first-up win over Georgia.
His absence, as well as injured prop Taniela Tupou, effectively derailed the Wallabies with Jones forced to rework their game plan to play off their giant pack.
Skelton said he was no certainty to be available to face Portugal.
“I’m still steadily trucking along, working day to day with the medics to try and get right,” he said.
“I’m not too sure if I’ll be right for this match but we will definitely push it to try to be involved.”
He said the Wales debacle would “sting for a long time” but that the team vowed to finish the tournament on a positive note.
“We’re hurting from this match against Wales and we want to put out a real performance against Portugal and finish on a high.”