Eddie Jones shouldered the blame for Australia’s 22-15 shock defeat to Fiji at the Rugby World Cup which left the race to qualify for the quarter-finals from Pool C wide open.
Josea Tuisova’s try and 14 points from goal-kicker Simione Kuruvoli helped the Pacific Islanders record their first-ever win over the Wallabies at a World Cup, and first against them in any match since 1954.
Australia head coach Jones made no secret of how much the loss hurt and took full responsibility for the result, which marked the team’s sixth loss in seven Tests this year.
“It hurts personally, 100 per cent,” Jones said. “I’m 100 per cent responsible for it. I’ve gone down the line of picking a young team and I want this young team to be a good team.
“At the moment we had a bad day today, which can happen, and we’ve got to be better next week, so that’s my responsibility.
“We started the game very uncharacteristically not like us. We’ve been really sharp at the start of games. We’ve played with a fair bit of pace and precision, and they were sloppy.
“From that, we had times in the game where we got on the front foot, but we struggled to get on the front foot and therefore, congratulations to Fiji. They played really well and it’s a deserved victory for them and I’m really pleased for them as a team, and we’ve got some work to do.”
Australia were dealt a blow before kick-off when captain Will Skelton was forced to withdraw from the line-up due to injury, with vice-captain Tate McDermott and prop Taniela Tupou sidelined due to injury as well.
The Wallabies constantly found themselves on the wrong side of referee Andrew Brace too, conceding 18 penalties – 11 of which came at the breakdown. Jones, however, did not use the absences as an excuse.
“We can’t blame the loss on Tupou or Skelton not being there,” Jones said. “We’ve got to be good enough to be able to cope with that.
“The penalties, when you’re not on the front foot, it’s quite easy to give away penalties so I’m not worried about our discipline. I’m worried about not getting on the front foot.
“Any game of rugby, you’ve got to get on the front foot. If you can’t get on the front foot, then you’re battling it.
“It was always going to be a tough day in terms of the officiating of the game. We knew that, I expected that, but we weren’t good enough to cope with it.”
Australia now face a huge clash with Wales in Pool C on Sunday, September 24 as they aim to avoid suffering an exit at the group stage of the World Cup for the first time in their history.
Jones did, however, manage to find a positive for the future to take from the defeat, with the Australia team on the pitch at the end of the match being the youngest in terms of average age they have fielded since 1995.
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“Look, we’ve gone with a young team,” Jones said. “I’ve got no regrets at all. We’re building a team for the future; we’re going to go through some pain.
“We’re doing our absolute best and I apologise. It’s my fault. I take full responsibility for it.
“I was really pleased with the character the young team showed. When Fiji is on the front foot in a fairly hostile environment, it would have been easy for our team to go away but they didn’t.
“So, amongst the gloom, there’s some really promising things there, particularly from the younger players.”