Another loss by the Wallabies and once
again it was all the players’ fault, according to the man who says he takes
responsibility but somehow manages to avoid it.

Coach Eddie Jones’ defence of his
performance is that he picked the wrong
team to play the French yesterday morning and will find a different one for the
English next weekend.

Can’t see how that lets him off the hook
myself, but Eddie is consistent in blaming the players rather than the coach
when the Wallabies lose, as they do with increasing frequency. Greg Growden has
the line here and Peter Jenkins here.

Six test losses in a row now, Eddie –
admittedly against the world’s current three best sides. None of the current
Wallabies was born the last time that happened.

You can’t really sack the coach after the
first week of a European tour, which is why the ARU should have done it
beforehand. Instead, they’ll ditch the captain. George Gregan’s magnificent
achievement of playing record 115 tests for his country has been overshadowed
by the loss.

Peter Jenkins in The Daily Telegraph this
morning buries George Gregan’s test career by using his team mates’ opinions – the
votes cast for the annual John Eales medal. In 2004, Gregan was ranked 11th.

This year he fared even worse in the prized
award for the players’ player of the year. Over the 13 Tests taking in last
year’s tour to Europe, through to the Tri-Nations series which ended in
September, he was down at 20th.

And he was absent for only one Test.

Jones has harped on the inability of his
tight-five to make an impact on the international scene. Yet the five who have
played regularly during the past 12 months – Bill Young, Jeremy Paul, Al
Baxter, Nathan Sharpe and Dan Vickerman – all outpolled Gregan.

But it’s all too easy just to blame the
tight five and Gregan. The way the Wallabies have tried to play the game this
year has failed and the coach has done nothing about it.

Jones, an excessively (perhaps
obsessively?) hard-working coach, is a creature of statistics. At the start of
this tour he acknowledged through the convoluted route of Tri-nations
statistics that the Wallabies style of rugby is behind the times – but he’s
done nothing about it. Anyone with eyes in the stands or in front the
television already knew that – the All
Blacks first and the Springboks second were working harder at keeping the ball
alive, offloading after contact or popping it from the deck to avoid a maul or

Yesterday morning, the French showed they too
had moved on from 2003 rugby. In the lead up to their first try, French players
offloaded after contact four times.
Until the last six minutes or so of the game, that was about the total
number of offloads by the Wallabies.

Eddie-blame-everyone-else claims he doesn’t
have players with the ability to pass after or in contact. Eddie, a coach is
supposed to be able to coach something like that. In those final minutes when the game was
well lost and the Wallabies started
throwing the ball around against an opposition who had relaxed, it was still
possible to see that in fact the players do have the ability – as professional
athletes of course must.

The Australian Rugby Union lacked the
leadership and gonads to face up to the coaching problem before this tour. An
opportunity has been lost. And over the next three weekends we’ll get
an idea of where the Wallabies stand in the rugby world – fourth if we’re
lucky, but more likely around fifth.