Jones accepts Wallabies job is on the line in Wales showdown

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FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Pool C – Australia v Fiji – Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne, France – September 17, 2023 Australia’s Carter Gordon in action REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo

By Nick Mulvenney

LYON, France (Reuters) -Australia coach Eddie Jones accepts that his job will be on the line if the Wallabies lose to Wales on Sunday and crash out of the World Cup at the pool stage for the first time.

A first loss to Fiji in nearly seven decades last week has left Australia’s campaign on life support heading into the Pool C match at OL stadium. Jones’s record in his second stint as coach stands at one win from seven tests.

“I can’t apologise any more guys. I’m really sorry we haven’t had better results,” Jones told reporters after naming his team on Friday.

“But we’re trying to create a team that creates dreams for Australian Rugby. We’re not trying to be a mediocre team, right? We want to be a really good team and to be a really good team there’s some pain and there’s some failure involved.

“At the end of the World Cup, there’s going to be a review,” he added. “And given the results we’ve had, then maybe Australian Rugby doesn’t want to keep me. That’s the reality of the job I live in.”

Jones made three changes to his starting team, including dropping flyhalf Carter Gordon and openside flanker Fraser McReight to the bench.

“Just feel we needed to properly freshen up the team,” Jones said. “Carter’s had an opportunity, struggled a bit against Fiji and I thought that it’s best for him to finish the game for us.”

Tate McDermott returns at scrumhalf after missing the loss to Fiji with concussion and will link up with Ben Donaldson, who moves forward from fullback, in a new halves combination.

“He attacks the line well, Ben,” Jones said. “Against Wales … if we can get quick ruck ball, we need a team that can attack the line.”

Andrew Kellaway, one of the more experienced backs in a young squad, will make his World Cup debut at fullback.

Jones reacted to Australia losing the battle of the breakdown against Fiji by re-jigging his back row, moving Tom Hooper from blindside to openside and handing Rob Leota the number six shirt.

Veteran flyhalf Quade Cooper and 125-cap openside Michael Hooper were two of the most surprising omissions from the World Cup squad but Jones denied that he had not fully explained leaving them out.

“I think I’ve been very clear about the fact that I’ve been brought in to change Australian Rugby,” he said.

“I’ve made no bones about that … and we’ve needed to move players on.”

Hooker Dave Porecki lines up in an unchanged front five and again replaces the injured Will Skelton as captain with Jones explaining that he wanted vice-captain McDermott to focus on his game.

“We’ve got an opportunity to show on Sunday whether we can fight and really grind out to get the result we need to get and I’m confident we can,” said Jones.

Team: 15-Andrew Kellaway, 14-Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13-Jordan Petaia, 12-Samu Kerevi, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Ben Donaldson, 9-Tate McDermott, 8-Rob Valetini, 7-Tom Hooper, 6-Rob Leota, 5-Richie Arnold, 4-Nick Frost, 3-James Slipper, 2-David Porecki (captain), 1-Angus Bell

Replacements: 16-Matt Faessler, 17-Blake Schoupp, 18-Pone Fa’amausili, 19-Matt Philip, 20-Fraser McReight, 21-Nic White, 22-Carter Gordon, 23-Suliasi Vunivalu.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Michael Perry, William Maclean)