Eddie Jones hit back at Sonny Bill Williams after the former New Zealand centre questioned the Wallabies coach’s decision to back youth over experience.
Having opened their World Cup campaign with a comfortable win over Georgia, Jones’ Australia were brought back to earth in a historic loss to Fiji on Sunday.
The game saw Jones haul young flyhalf Carter Gordon off in the second half, after a poor performance.
The 22-year-old, who was selected in the squad ahead of the vastly more experienced Bernard Foley and Quade Cooper, struggled to get the Wallabies going forward and was at fault for Josua Tuisova’s try early in the second half after failing to gather a high kick.
After the match, two-time World Cup winner Williams said he felt Jones had thrown Gordon into the deep end without proper support.
“My take on this whole ordeal of a game is, I feel for Carter Gordon right now,” Williams said.
“Because he doesn’t have a Quade Cooper or [Bernard] Foley to go back to the hotel and say, ‘bro, these things happen but you know you will be better.’ It’s really tough seeing him get pulled like that.”
He added: “But these selections, I’m going to call it how it is – we are in a high-performance arena. And sometimes you live and die by your decisions and Eddie Jones got found out tonight unfortunately.”
When Williams’ comments were brought up in the post-match press conference, Jones took a swipe at the centre-turned-pundit and backed the Wallabies to bounce back.
“When you are a television commentator, you are always right. Maybe I need to become a television commentator then I’ll be right all the time,” Jones said.
“Look, we’ve gone with a young team, I’ve got no regrets at all. We are building a team for the future and we are going to go through some pain.
“I made the decision to go for a younger team and if that’s the wrong decision then I will be held accountable for that. But I think Australian rugby needs to move on to a younger team. I am prepared to go through some pain to leave Australia with a team capable of doing really well in a World Cup.
“That’s not to say we can’t do it, we’ve had a bit of a setback today but that’s all part of being in a World Cup. I do remember South Africa lost a game and won a World Cup, so funny things have happened.”
Australia next face a must-win game against Wales – unbeaten in their two Pool C games – on Sunday, 24 September.
Photo: FRANCIS BOMPARD / AFP