Why Wallabies' stars are on edge with Eddie Jones in charge
SPOTLIGHT: Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says Eddie Jones’ all-seeing eye will keep Super Rugby Pacific players “on edge” as they bid to secure a spot in the Wallabies’ World Cup squad.
With just five Tests before Jones has to announce his squad for the 2023 edition in France, the Australia coach has rammed home how franchise form will inform his selection.
Australian players will have their first chance to impress the new Wallabies boss when the Waratahs and Brumbies kick off the season on Friday, February 24.
Strong recruitment from the Waratahs, Western Force and Melbourne Rebels should help them push the Brumbies and Queensland Reds – Australia’s strongest outfits in recent years – for numbers in the Wallabies squad.
Larkham believes the atmosphere created by Jones’ appointment will keep players on their toes, with past heroics carrying little sway with Australia’s head coach.
“It’s going to be a challenge for the guys who probably thought they were secured of a spot for the World Cup,” Larkham told AAP on Wednesday.
“Guys are going to be on edge because they are going to be judged to the nth degree.
“Eddie is one of those coaches that really looks at a player’s performance with a fine tooth comb and he does a lot of background checking on his players.
“The players aren’t going to be cognisant of what Eddie is looking for, but at some stage he’ll definitely be giving them feedback.”
Places are up for grabs across the board, but the main questions surround the flyhalf and fullback roles.
Jones’ predecessor Dave Rennie never settled on a combination in those two positions as he rotated through a No.10 and No.15 throughout 2022 with little success.
The scrumhalf berth is also no guarantee, with the Reds’ Tate McDermott and Waratahs captain Jake Gordon breathing down the neck of the Brumbies’ Nic White for the starting spot.
“It’s not only a big year for me, it’s a big year for everyone,” said McDermott.
One of the few men guaranteed a spot on the plane to France – providing he avoids injury – is prop Allan Alaalatoa.
The Brumbies tighthead, who captained the Wallabies for the first time last year, believes Jones’ influence will stoke the fire in the domestic game.
“I think you’ll see a lift across the board in a World Cup year,” Alaalatoa said.
“With a new coach, there’s a lot of positions up for grabs.
“There’s definitely nerves because you’re unsure, but there’s an excitement in having a coach who knows how to win.”