Eight defeats in nine matches, a World Cup less than two years away - one way or another, the Wallaby hierarchy have something of a crisis on their hands.
The Australian Rugby Union will not be railroaded into choosing a replacement for the sacked Eddie Jones, however. The stakes are far too high to make a snap judgement - if the hirers and firers get it wrong now, they can kiss goodbye to any hope of regaining the Webb Ellis Trophy in 2007 - and the word from Sydney yesterday was that no appointment would be made until February at the earliest.
Jones was given the heave-ho late on Thursday, a mere 48 hours after returning from a spectacularly unsuccessful European tour that yielded only a single victory, over the Irish in Dublin. "Professional rugby is a result-based game and one win in nine is far from satisfactory," said Gary Flowers, the managing director of the ARU. "This was a very difficult decision, but the union strongly believes it must give the Wallabies a fresh start with a new coach. Eddie has made an enormous contribution to the game, but this is in the best interests of Australian rugby."
Jones, who presided over the worst run of Wallaby results in almost 40 years, was not best pleased by the painful turn of events, even though he was widely considered to be dead and gone even before Australia's defeat in Cardiff last weekend. "In the end the head coach takes responsibility for performances, and that's why my contract has been terminated," he said. "I don't hold any malice, but I'm disappointed that, having prepared a report for the ARU explaining where I thought the side was going, I was not given the option of presenting it."
Rod Macqueen, who guided Australia to the world title in 1999 and prevailed over the British and Irish Lions in 2001 before making way for Jones, will serve on a selection panel to be convened over the next few days.Reuse content