LYON, France -- Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh has said he can only take Wallabies coach Eddie Jones at his word and at this stage the 63-year-old remains committed to Australian rugby, despite a bombshell report Sunday that the 63-year-old had interviewed for the soon-to-be vacant Japan role.
A report published by the Sydney Morning Herald said Jones had been part of the process to find a replacement for Brave Blossoms coach Jamie Joseph, who will step away after the World Cup, before the Australian then interviewed for the role himself.
A Japanese report had earlier this month linked Jones with a potential return to the Brave Blossoms, who he coached to their famous victory over the Springboks at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which the 63-year-old described as "bulls--- and rubbish". The Japanese report followed comments from Jones on a podcast earlier in the year that he would depart Australian rugby after the World Cup, which he later backed down from.
But the latest development has only heightened speculation that the two-time World Cup runner-up plans to walk away from the Wallabies not even 12 months into a five-year deal.
Asked about the report at a Wallabies function in Lyon a few hours out from kick-off at Groupama Stadium, Waugh said he had spoken with Jones and that the coach had denied the report that he was making moves to take on the Japan job.
"I think the most important thing is to talk to Eddie himself, I know that Eddie has come out and made his comments around it, and as I said in the article, I take people for their word and that's what I've been told, and so we move forward," Waugh said Sunday afternoon.
"I'm certainly not going to get into the game of speculating who's been having conversations with who, I think it's just really important now to get behind the guys tonight and keep progressing through the tournament.
"I think there is always speculation around what different coaches, different players are doing; but Eddie's been fully committed to this campaign since he came to Australia about nine/ten months ago. It's surprising but, as I said, you take people for their word and you trust that they're telling you the truth.
"We're committed to Eddie and we've seen what he's done previously with international teams - England with 73% [win rate], he's coached at World Cup finals and been arguably one of the most successful coaches for a long period of time. So we were excited to have Eddie nine months ago and we still believe what he'll drive through team culture and performance."
Waugh said he had not spoken to counterparts at the Japanese Rugby Union about any moves to recruit Jones.
"I haven't spoken to Japan yet but I don't think it is my space to go over and ask other governing bodies and what they're up to," Waugh added. "As I said, I've taken Eddie for what he's said, and the fact that he's denied it, and [we] keep pushing on."
Asked to confirm his future after naming his team on Friday, Jones gave little away, but admitted any desire to see his contract through might be taken out of his own hands anyway.
"Well, at the end of the World Cup there'll be a review," Jones said. "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. And I understand that.
When it was put to him that he wasn't committed to his contract, Jones only added: "That's not the answer I gave you."
Jones was brought in as coach in January after Rugby Australia sacked Dave Rennie. The governing body, and chairman Hamish McLennan in particular, will sink to a new level of embarrassment if Jones does in fact walk away.
McLennan was the driving force in Jones recruitment and if the coach does walk, McLennan will be under huge pressure to follow suit.
Assistant coach Jason Ryles, who joined Jones' setup on the eve of their departure to France, believed his boss was committed for the future, but also quipped that it was nice to have options.
"To walk away from that would be a bit of a surprise because there is a lot of green shoots for the future," Ryles said of Jones and his overhaul of the Wallabies. "I'm not too sure what he'll do to be honest with you. It's good to have options by the sounds of it."
The Wallabies meanwhile need to win over Wales to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals, which they have never failed to do in the nine previous editions of the tournament.