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Eddie Jones return brings hope to Australia

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) – The Rugby Championship starting this weekend provides a chance to experience the second coming of Eddie Jones as Wallabies coach and look for signs of the amazing transformation he is expected to perform.

Jones has been handed the task of coaching to this year’s World Cup a Wallabies team that is ranked seventh and coming off a 7-7 record in test matches in 2022.

When Jones last coached the Wallabies between 2001 and 2005 he had early success, leading the Australians to a Tri-Nations title and to the World Cup final at home in 2003.

He had immediate success as an adviser to the 2007 Springboks, who won the World Cup that year, and was instrumental after taking over the Japan national team in 2013 and coaching them to an historic win over the Springboks at the 2015 World Cup. He guided England to the World Cup final in 2019.

The record shows the longer Jones remains in a coaching role the more his results become subject to the law of diminishing returns. But he does, usually, have an early impact. And that’s what Australians will be looking for signs of during the Rugby Championship and the World Cup.

Eddie Jones. PHOTO: AP

The Wallabies begin the Championship and their road to the World Cup when they play the Springboks on Saturday at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld stadium, where they’ve never won a test. That makes it the perfect site for Jones to demonstrate the beginning of the Wallaby transformation.

Jones, who replaced Dave Rennie as Wallabies coach not long after ending his tenure in England, is famous for getting his players extremely fit and for his close management of most aspects of the game plan. He also knows the importance of mental attitude.

“First you have to think you can win,” Jones told reporters in South Africa. “The most important thing is that that is the mindset you’ve got to be in.

“You’ve got to be thinking that, and we’re 100 per cent committed to winning. Then you’ve got to execute a game plan where you win enough possession that you can push (the opposition) to the other end of the field and keep them under pressure.”

Jones said Saturday’s match, whatever the outcome, is only the first step on Australia’s road to the World Cup at which they hope to stage a “smash and grab raid” on the Webb Ellis Trophy.

“We don’t need to get ahead of ourselves,” he said.

“We’re not focused on South Africa, we’re focused on ourselves. This is a game about us. We want to put a new standard of Wallaby rugby forward.”

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