Analysis: Bledisloe will be better for Eddie Jones' bravado

Nick Frost wins a lineout for the Wallabies during their 40-14 defeat to the All Blacks at Eden Park last year.

Eddie Jones, the man who helped knock New Zealand out of two World Cups, has said in his first media engagement on his return as Wallabies coach that he is “going after” the All Blacks this year.

"[The Bledisloe Cup] is a big target for us because we know if we can take on New Zealand we are in a good position to take the World Cup," he said yesterday.

"It's not the be all and end all because the World Cup is the major tournament.

"They [New Zealand] are in a pretty good spot, but we're coming after them.

"We'll be chasing them down the street - we want that rivalry to be tough and we'll make sure we're chasing them."

So far, so Eddie Jones.

On the eve of the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season (it kicks off on February 24), and seven months out from the World Cup, and with the desire (more like a requirement), to make headlines for a sport struggling for positive news space in Australia, what better way for the master manipulator to attract attention?

It’s straight out of Jones’ playbook – his performance in front of the media as England’s head coach a few days out from the 2019 World Cup semifinal when he light-heartedly accused the All Blacks coaches of spying on his squad was a masterclass of deflection and wresting control of the narrative. The week finished with England demolishing the All Blacks 19-7.

Jones’ other World Cup semifinal success over the All Blacks came in 2003 during his first stint with the Wallabies.

And yet, while it is bluster designed to filter into the ears of his players via a grateful news media, there is something to like about his approach and the possibility it offers: a truly competitive series for a Bledisloe Cup that has been locked in the New Zealand Rugby headquarters since 2001.

In the end, Jones, who oversaw England’s incredible comeback at Twickenham against the All Blacks when they scored 19 points in eight minutes to draw 25-25, was treated cruelly by the RFU when he was sacked soon afterwards.

New Wallabies coach Eddie Jones doing what he does best in his first press conference in the job.

So was Kiwi Dave Rennie, who oversaw a similar comeback himself in the first Bledisloe Cup Test last year when the Wallabies scored 24 points in the second half in Melbourne to overtake the All Blacks, only to see his side fail due to referee Mathieu Raynal’s dramatic late intervention.

Rennie, a likeable but down to earth coach who never won over the Australian rugby public, was subsequently sacked (after holding a pre-2023 Wallabies training camp) to make way for Jones.

It was a cynical piece of business that highlights the nature of modern Test rugby, but, regardless, it may breathe new life into a competition that is on the brink of irrelevance.

The self-styled little Aussie battler is back, and the two Bledisloe Cup Tests in late July and early August (venues are to be decided due to FIFA World Cup), have just become a little more attractive as a result.


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