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Australia: The downfall of rugby giants 

“I didn’t feel that the team that was there were good enough to win a World Cup. 

“We had to be optimistic about our chance of winning the World Cup and in the end we’re not good enough to win a World Cup they understand that there is a rebuilding process to do.  

“Systematic things need to be changed but that’s not my responsibility.” 

These are the words of Australian Head Coach Eddie Jones after their loss to Wales. 

But how did one of the biggest rugby union nations in the world fall so far? With two World Cup wins under their belt and regularly beating some of the very best and have produced some of the best talent in rugby history. But look at the Wallabies now and how far they have sunk. Losing to teams like Ireland, Wales and Scotland, teams that they could easily beat but now it’s the opposite. 

Former Waratahs coach Matt Williams feels that Australian rugby is not going the right way. 

He said: “We’ve suffered for twenty years of terrible administration. 

“We’ve basically become the third island of New Zealand. A small, failed island because we stopped encouraging Australian coaches, the Australian way of playing and we’ve brought in a whole lot of New Zealanders in administration and in coaching that said ‘no, we’re going to play like New Zealand’ and all that’s occurred is we’ve lost our way.” 

The last New Zealander Australia had as Head Coach was Dave Rennie (2020-2023) who only won 12 of his 33 matches in charge of Australia. With a win ratio of 36%, the worst in Australian history since Des Connor (14%) in 1971. 

Before Australia’s World Cup warm up match against hosts France, they brought in former New Zealand coach Steve Hansen to help Australia with the game. They would lose 41-17 to Les Bleus. 

When looking back at the very first World Cup in 1987, Australia were one of the big favourites in the tournament. 

They came up short against the underdogs, France in the semi-final losing 30-24. The Wallabies would bounce back in the next World Cup four years later, winning the final against England 12-6. 

They would also win it a second time in 1999. In 2003 Australia came so close to becoming the first team to win back-to-back World Cups. England’s Jonny Wilkinson would score that infamous drop goal that would give England the win.  

This period in Australian rugby was their absolute best, dominating test series’ and winning the Tri-Nations Championship on multiple occasions. 

It shows how Australia now have fallen. Their best run since 2003 is their World Cup campaign in 2015 where the Wallabies were runners up. Since then, it has gone further downhill for Australia. In 2018 they only won 4 of 13 matches which was a new all-time low. It would get worse in the present day as they have only won 2 of 9 matches so far. 

“This year has been an acceleration of an already steady decline, let’s not say everything is rosy and we have fallen off a cliff we have been going downhill for a long time,” says former Wallabies centre Morgan Turinui. 

Melbourne Rebel chief executive Baden Stephenson said: “Everyone is screaming out and we probably said it before the World Cup even: if not now, then when? 

“We have hit zero and none are enjoying this, we all want to get better and we are nowhere near where we need to be, so we all have to be part of the solution.” 

People who work outside of Australian rugby were also frustrated of how low it has become. Hunter Fujak, a lecturer in sports management at Deakin University said: 

“Fundamentally, the wicked problem for Australian rugby comes from having so many individual discrete challenges, that each need urgent attention, whilst not having the resources to address all of them or potentially any of them, fundamentally, that is the big challenge, this pernicious downward spiral.” 

Wallabies’ supporter, Max Redmayne said: 

“The emphasis should be on scoring tries rather than kicking penalty goals, reduce the obsession with se pieces, particularly the scrum. 

“All of the above is a plea to encourage a return to the halcyon days of ‘running’ rugby, which is more appealing, if this requires major rule changes at the international level then so be it otherwise the game will fade into obscurity.” 

Their needs to be a change in Australia overall, passion, fire, a better system. Many great teams do bounce back and Australia could be one of those teams, unless they continue down this lack of form. Eddie Jones will by the look of it be given a second chance, but another disaster could lead to another sacking for the Australian. 

What do you think?