Australia head coach Eddie Jones has the “full support” of his players despite a disastrous start to his second spell leading the team, captain Will Skelton said on Monday.
Australia were all but knocked out of the World Cup on Sunday when suffering a record 40-6 defeat to Wales — their biggest ever defeat to those opponents and in the tournament itself.
It left Jones’s record since he was re-hired in January at one win — against Tier II Georgia — and seven defeats in his eight matches.
The prickly 63-year-old has been under fire in recent days from all angles as reports in Australian media claimed he was interviewed for the Japanese head coach role — which New Zealander Jamie Joseph will leave after the World Cup — just weeks before the tournament began, something Jones denies.
Skelton insisted those rumours had not affected Australia’s performance against Wales.
“No, it wasn’t addressed and no I don’t think it was a distraction,” said the 31-year-old.
“I think it’s something that’s been knocked on the head there. Eddie’s denied it with us. We have full trust in him.”
Skelton acknowledged the players had not directly discussed the rumours with Jones, but they trusted what he told the press.
“I heard the press conference last night. I trust in there what he says, he’s a man of his word. He’s got the full support of the group,” Skelton said.
Australia’s World Cup fate could be sealed before they even face Pool C minnows Portugal on Sunday.
If Fiji earn a bonus-point win over Georgia on Saturday, Australia’s quarter-final hopes will be over due to their loss to the Pacific Islanders a week ago.
But even once that is confirmed, Skelton feels Jones is the right man to lead the Wallabies up to the next World Cup on home soil in 2027.
“I think his long-term vision and what he wants Australian rugby to be back to, I think that’s a positive,” said the injured lock, who was sorely missed in those defeats to Fiji and Wales.
“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,” he said.