Eddie Jones betrayed Australia's rugby public -- he's no martyr in Wallabies exit

Two days out from the Wallabies' Rugby World Cup opener, Eddie Jones sat deep within the confines of a conference room by the River Seine and asked Australians to embrace the start of a "cycle". Referring to a four-year journey to the next global showpiece Down Under, Jones had already ushered in a squad overhaul, one he said would give the Wallabies the best chance of being successful in 2027.

Eight weeks on, we now know that he was never truly committed to that journey himself -- that the coach was already planning an exit strategy and that he had no intention of seeing out the contract for which he had signed a five-year deal back in January.

In that same interview with ESPN, Jones said that "traitor" slurs hadn't really affected him when he toured Australia as coach of England in 2022, that his explosive reaction was borne out of the need to show he "wouldn't take that lying down, that was probably the Australian part of me... and I want this Australian team to play like that."

What's that, Eddie, a team that quits on itself 10 months into a five-year job?

Turns out those two individuals who antagonized Jones at the SCG weren't too far wide of the mark, as Jones' decision to walk out on the Wallabies is a betrayal. It is a betrayal of the 33 players he took to France, most notably youngsters Carter Gordon and Ben Donaldson, and those he left behind like Michael Hooper, Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley, who were all shunted aside for the coach's revolution.

But most of all it is a betrayal of the Australian rugby community and the wider national sporting public to whom Jones issued his rallying call; to the young boys and girls across the country who adore the game and this team and whom bought into Jones' bold plan. And that is even before you consider the incredible allegations that he was interviewing to coach Japan.

Before heading for France, Jones, proudly donning his Akubra, delivered his infamous spray at gathered journalists at Sydney Airport. As he turned, knocked over his suitcase and headed up the departure lane, he told journalists to "give yourself an uppercut, boys."

There is only one bloke who deserves an uppercut today, Eddie, and that is you. You got that much right at Coogee Oval two weeks ago.

Australia's Rugby World Cup flop, the Wallabies' worst ever result at the game's global showpiece, sits on your shoulders. It sits on your shoulders and those of the man who brought you back to Australia, who trumpeted you as the game's saviour Down Under, Hamish McLennan.

Now, you too, Hamish, must walk.

The decision to sack Dave Rennie three years into a World Cup preparation, replacing him with a man who was just sacked by England, who has a history of running his mouth and antagonizing players, always appeared foolhardy.

Now it is clearly one of the worst, if not the worst, decision in Australian rugby history.

McLennan's "captain's call" means he is tethered the Jones. While the chairman has made some positive contributions in his stint as Rugby Australia chairman, including playing a leading role in winning the 2027 World Cup bid, he surely cannot survive Jones' exit.

As rather than set in motion a plan to make a strong run at the Webb Ellis Cup in that very tournament, he has set any preparations back by at least 12 months and maybe even longer. And the 2023 World Cup was deemed expendable in the process.

Who now is going to want to work with Rugby Australia? The governing body's reputation, and that of Australian rugby in general, is in tatters, both at home and abroad.

What on earth would make Dan McKellar, who will be RA's top target now Jones has hung up his Akubra, want to return to Australia to pick up the pieces from this flaming pile of the proverbial?

The former Brumbies boss honed his craft in Canberra, moved into the Wallabies as an assistant under Rennie, before RA threw his development plan out the window and appointed Jones. McKellar already made one smart move earlier this year in declining the offer to hitch his mast to Jones' rudderless ship; why now would he consider departing a high-profile club position like the one he has at Leicester?

Other options? One prominent media personality and former Wallaby suggested Robbie Deans. Again, why would "Dingo Deans" depart a plum job like Panasonic Wild Knights for an assignment like the one on offer in Australia. ESPN understands he has no interest in returning to the role he held between 2008 and 2013, when the Wallabies were routinely ranked inside the world's top 3 nations.

They are now ranked No. 9, and were as low as 10 this year under Jones.

Test rugby coaching jobs don't come up all that often admittedly, and there are only 10 or so positions that hold true alure, but convincing someone to take on the Wallabies right now would be a mighty challenge.

Any viable applicant would certainly demand some assurances, the ability to choose their own coaching team and have full control over all selection decisions. That would be the case for Michael Cheika, who had his power stripped away in the final years of his ill-fated reign, when Scott Johnson became Director of Rugby and a three-man selection panel was established; Cheika would want complete control this time around.

The Pumas coach is another "proud" Australian who, despite his faults, wouldn't abandon ship like Jones did this week. He may be the only option if McKellar turns down RA's advances, and Cheika has always indicated he'd like another shot with the Wallabies. For now, he says he has some tidying up to do with Argentina.

Stephen Larkham, who worked under Cheika as a Wallabies assistant, before a three-year stint with Munster, could be another option.

If there are any positives today it's that Australian rugby can now close this sorry 10-month chapter and stamp Jones' file as "never to be involved again". A noted rugby league fan, Jones would right now conjure the same feelings for rugby supporters to those which saw a prominent NRL coach flip his lid in 2022.

For his second coming was little more than 287 days of rugby torment, a complete and utter catastrophe that has reduced the game in Australia to its knees. Jones has made himself out to be some kind of rugby martyr, saying the changes he was attempting to make are what is required to take the game forward in Australia. But his actions do not reflect those of a coach who truly wanted to instigate meaningful change.

This was an entirely avoidable debacle, one that has made rugby the laughing stock of Australian sport, and Australia the laughing stock of the rugby world.