Eddie Jones got the World Cup mind games underway with a cheeky dig at World Rugby and message to referee Luke Pearce ahead of the Wallabies opener against Georgia on Saturday.
Pearce, who will have the whistle when the Wallabies start their World Cup campaign against Georgia, also handled Australia’s final warm-up, a 41-17 loss to tournament hosts France.
After naming his Wallabies matchday-23 for the opening clash, Jones was asked about Pearce, and the English referee’s handling of the breakdown in particular.
Without skipping a beat, the Australian took the opportunity to have a laugh at World Rugby, while also sending a subtle message to Pearce.
“World Rugby is here aren’t they. I’m sure they’re here somewhere. They’re always in the shadows. They’ve got listening devices everywhere. Everything you say gets recorded and you don’t want any black marks against you mate,” said Jones.
“So to say a referee would favour one side over the other would be probably a black mark.
“The interesting decision against France was when Suli [Vunivalu] got sin binned for a legitimate action, but in Premiership, when you make a line break and you interfere with that breakdown, they deem it as an automatic sin bin.
“I’m sure that World Rugby’s had a chat to him about that. And that won’t be the case on Saturday.”
Jones’ youthful Wallabies have yet to taste victory in five games in 2023, but did produce improved performances against the All Blacks and Les Bleus.
“We are ready to go, mate. We’re like an F1 car now, a fast one at the start of the grid,” said Jones. “There’s been a really good progression. We went through a period where we had to almost de-structure the team to get ourselves in the position where we think we can win the World Cup. This is the first step against Georgia, a very important game.
“In the latter part of the Rugby Championship and the France game here, the team were really starting to come together. It would be unfair for me to say that I knew where the team were going to end up because we are just starting to understand what our strengths are as a team and to play to those. We’re going to play a reasonably unique style, which suits us.
“We are ready for the lights.”
Photo: William West/AFP