England coach Eddie Jones has dived into Rugby Australia’s [RA] current state of issues on Australian podcast The Rugby Ruckus, suggesting RA focus on reviving club rugby to its former glory and avoid imitating other nation’s structures.
Currently based in Japan, Jones has been keeping a close eye on the issues plaguing RA, including the political infighting that has seen former CEO Raelene Castle resign before director Peter Wiggs left his role just a month after taking the job.
Joining the podcast on Thursday, the former Wallabies coach was asked his thoughts on the current state of Australian rugby and how RA could revive the code in Australia. Alongside suggesting Australia return to just three Super Rugby sides, he believes a strong club base is essential in returning the code and the Wallabies to glory.
“I was lucky enough to come through at a club level when club rugby was strong, we used to play down at Randwick we’d get 5,000 people down on a Saturday afternoon and it was one of the biggest games in town,” Jones told The Rugby Ruckus. “But that’s obviously fallen away because of Super Rugby.
“Now’s the opportunity to get club rugby strong and then get the top end of the game strong, because if you can get the base of the game right, which is the club rugby and then you get the top level right, then the middle will work out pretty good.
“There’s been something wrong at the bottom end of the game and the top end of the game in Australian rugby for me.”
While SANZAAR remain adamant Super Rugby will return as planned in 2021, talk in Australia has swirled around a potential national league or trans-Tasman competition if COVID-19 continues to create uncertainty.
According to Jones, creating competition between players with just three Super Rugby sides is how Australia should progress forward.
“As the national team coach you want your best players playing together, to me that’s having three teams,” he said. “If you spread it out too far, does that add to the national team?
“At the end of the day, if the Wallabies win people will follow rugby in Australia, there’s no doubt about that. Everyone loves a winner; we’ve seen that with Australian cricket.
“The solution for Australia is relatively quiet simple: invest in the clubs, get the right domestic-provincial competition, whether that be three or four teams, find a way to pay that through television and then you’ll have a strong national team.”
Asked if Australia faces any unique challenges when structuring rugby in Australia, Jones warned against looking at imitating what’s been done around the world, instead focusing on what makes Australian rugby strong.
“It’s completely different everywhere, so the only model that’s important is the model for your country,” Jones said. “The worst thing to do is to look at another country and say ‘that’s what we’ve got to do’.
“To me Australia’s been a rugby community based on strong clubs, the strong clubs then fit into a provincial system that collects the best players and then those provincial teams play against each other to represent the Wallabies.”