'Sacking Jones is worst thing Australia can do'

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Australia players look dejected after losing to WalesAustralia's 40-6 defeat in Lyon was their worst-ever loss against Wales
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Sacking Eddie Jones would be "the worst thing" Australia could do despite their troubles at the Rugby World Cup, says former captain Stirling Mortlock.

The Wallabies face group-stage elimination at the tournament for the first time after being hammered 40-6 by Wales on Sunday.

Having already lost to Fiji, Australia's chances of securing the top-two Pool C spot they need to progress are slim.

Jones, who was only appointed Australia coach in January, is taking much of the heat for the poor performances of the two-time world champions.

He has also been criticised following a story in the Sydney Morning Heraldexternal-link on the morning of the Wales game that he had secretly interviewed for the Japan coaching role just weeks before the World Cup started. Jones denied that was true in his media conference after the Wales defeat.

Australia have also fallen to a record low of 10th in World Rugby's rankings after their defeat. The Wallabies have never previously been lower than ninth in the standings, with Argentina having overtaken them.

While describing the Wales match as a "train wreck" for Australia, Mortlock backed Jones to stay in charge of a young Wallabies side and lead them into the 2027 World Cup, which Australia are hosting.

"Eddie as a coach and leader is accountable, and he says this," Mortlock told the BBC's Rugby Union Daily podcast. "I respect him that he wears it.

"But the worst thing Australia can do is get rid of him, to say you're not the best man for the job after only six months. Back your man, you picked him for a reason.

"It's about the next four years of rugby in our country. He rolled the dice with youth for this World Cup - maybe if Australia were in what was perceived as a tougher pool, he would not have done this."

Australia trailed 29-6 after 50 minutes against Wales, their chances of salvaging the match all but gone.

"It was like a train wreck," Mortlock said. "You hoped it wasn't going to come, but it was. After 50 minutes, it was one-way traffic. I have been on the pitch when that has happened, you cannot just turn it around.

"I feel for the players, for the Australians who have made the trip over - sometimes that happens.

"Tier-one nations, it is not definite you will get to the quarter-finals, the gap between tier one and tier two is diminishing which is a great thing for World Cups."

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'He is a fantastic coach with a massive rugby IQ'

Australia captain Will SkeltonAustralia captain Will Skelton (second right) missed the Wales match due to a calf injury

Jones was also backed by his captain Will Skelton, with the second row denying that the rumours surrounding the coach and the Japan job had affected the players in the build-up.

"No, it wasn't addressed and no I don't think it was a distraction," Skelton said. "I think it's something that's been knocked on the head. Eddie's denied it with us.

"We also have full trust in him. I don't think it was a distraction leading into the game.

"I don't have to [ask Jones directly]. I heard the press conference last night. I trust what he says, he's a man of his word. He's got the full support of the group."

Jones previously guided Australia to the 2003 World Cup final in a previous spell as coach, while the Wallabies most recently reached the showpiece in 2015.

But having chosen to leave out several experienced players in favour of youth, the former England coach is now taking most of the flak for the Fiji and Wales defeats, which leave Australia with only a small mathematical chance of progression.

However, Skelton added: "I think his long-term vision and what he wants Australian rugby to be back to, I think that's a positive.

"The way he is around the group, 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 directs, the boys follow him and I do as well.

"He is a fantastic coach with a massive rugby IQ. We're learning every day when we're working with him. It's one of those things, he simplifies the game of rugby for us."

Jones only returned to the Australia job after previous coach Dave Rennie was sacked. And despite the links with Japan and the defeat by Wales, he has stressed he is fully committed to his role.

Asked about his future, Jones said: "That's not my judgment, that's the judgment for Rugby Australia. I think I've got the ability to turn things around. I was hoping we'd be able to do it by now.

"We haven't and I'm bloody disappointed about that. While it looks like a shambles, I can guarantee it's not.

"I'm committed to coaching Australia. I really take umbrage that people are questioning my commitment to coaching Australia. To doubt my commitment to the job is a bit red hot."

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'The Eddie Jones experiment has been a disaster'

Ben Donaldson kicks for goal against WalesAustralia's only points against the Welsh came via two Ben Donaldson penalties

While current and former players back Jones, the Australian media is near unanimous in calling for him to be sacked.

"Forget the fact the Wallabies have a minor mathematical chance of getting through because it is all over," Julian Linden wrote in Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"For the first time in the history of the Rugby World Cup, the Wallabies will fail to make it past the pool phase, plunging the struggling code into a crisis that it may never recover from.

"A lot of the blame - and rightly so - will be directed at head coach Eddie Jones, though he is not the only culprit because this was a collective stuff-up on an industrial scale."

Former Wallabies coach Alan Jones attacked not only Jones but also the chairman of Rugby Australia, Hamish McLennan.

"If there is any decency, dignity or concern for the rugby family within Rugby Australia, McLennan, and Jones should be gone today," he wrote in The Australian.

"The players were aimless to the point of embarrassment. So whatever the so-called 'gameplan' was, it went out the window when they walked on the pitch."

Former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons, previously a strong supporter of Jones, described the Wales loss as the "complete humiliation of a Wallabies side not strong enough to make it out of the weakest pool at the World Cup".

"There is no way around it. The Eddie Jones experiment has been a disaster," he wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"All of us who thought it would work have been proved wrong. The magic he had has definitively gone.

"Where to from here? I have no clue. But if Eddie is indeed going to Japan, that would solve one problem."

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