Speaking to BettingSites.co.uk, Wallabies icon David Campese shares his thoughts on the future of Australian rugby after Eddie Jones’ left his role as head coach following the country’s group stage exit at the World Cup.
Question: Eddie Jones, good riddance?
David Campese: “I don’t think it was good riddance, I think it was just sad how it all happened. I don’t understand why a chairman of a board, who doesn’t know much about rugby, can make a decision where he thinks that we weren’t going to make the quarters because of what was happening.
“Unfortunately as you know with boards around the world, sometimes people get on boards because they want to but they actually have no idea about the game. I know Eddie and I don’t feel sorry for him but he was thrown into the deep end not knowing the state of Australian rugby when he first got here.
“I always said that even with Robbie Deans and Dave Rennie, even at the Sharks when I was coaching, you’ve got to understand what the culture is about the team. You’ve got to understand where they are and what they’ve done in their careers. I turned up to the Sharks in 2005 not knowing much about South African rugby. The team was made up of a full South African backline. I didn’t go in saying this is what we do, I said that I’ve got to understand these guys, give them the basic skills and help them as much as possible. I didn’t try to take takeover.
“Eddie has come back to Australia, knowing about Australian rugby but not knowing where we were and how bad we were. He was given a bad deal.”
Q: But he didn’t help himself either with his conduct, behavior and leaving behind experienced players?
DC: “Even in England when he was the head coach, it was all about Eddie. In terms of leaving players behind, you look at Hooper, he went missing for six months last year and no one knew why, even Rugby Australia. You can’t just turn up and go missing. Quade Cooper played in Japan, he had an achilles problem last year so I don’t know if we would have made it.
“Eddie came into a situation where apparently he said the board agreed that we have to go for a younger team at the 2027 World Cup whether that’s true or not, so he had to make a decision. He should know that you don’t turn up to a World Cup and play a 24-year-old goal kicker that has played four test matches.”
Q: Is all lost in Australian rugby now or can it be brought back from the brink?
DC: “I don’t think it’s lost, there is opportunity but the problem is who is going to be the coach? Robbie Deans doesn’t want to go backwards. We can’t pick foreigners, it doesn’t work in Australia.
“The problem in Australia is that we haven’t got any coaches. It’s simple. We haven’t got a system. Michael Cheika’s first job was in Italy, I got him the job in Italy. Eddie Jones couldn’t coach in Australia so he goes overseas because here we’re so parochial they’ll pick their locals.
“The Queensland Reds is managed by Les Kiss, he was a Rugby League player, he’s never played rugby in his life. I wouldn’t pick him because he doesn’t know about rugby, he’s got all his rugby league mates.
“We’re in a situation where we don’t have a system. We need a high performance coaching system in Australia where we can then pick four or five coaches who we think are good enough then in two or three years they can coach Super Rugby teams but we haven’t done that and now we’re in this position.
“We don’t want a South African and we don’t want a Kiwi. We want Australians to understand who we are and how we play so we have to start from scratch. Rugby Australia need to get a panel going so that they can understand where they are and where we need to go.
“How do we do that? It’s not going to happen overnight but we’ve got great opportunities with the Lions tour in 2025 and the World Cup in 2027 and then the Olympic Games in Brisbane in 2032. We’ve got a lot of rugby coming up so we need to create a system and set it up properly but how are we going to do that if we don’t know who is available?”
Q: Will the review serve purpose?
DC: “What’s the review going to do? Eddie Jones is gone, the coaching system is gone so what are we going to review? Everyone makes mistakes in life but how are we going to fix it? To me what I’ve seen is Australian kids that don’t know who the Wallabies are.
“Look at South Africa in the World Cup. Social media went ballistic before the World Cup. South Africa was about a team, it was about their spirit and it was about their history. The Kiwis are the same and that’s why the final was unbelievable because both team’s history is there.
“In Australia, we haven’t got that because most supporters are over 50-years-old who love rugby. We need the younger generation to support the team but they don’t know who any of the players are. They don’t know the history of Australian rugby. That’s our problem, no one knows anything about Australian rugby. We won two World Cups before any other country in the world.
“The board has made bad decisions. Guys like Paul McLean who are well-known that get rewarded for bad decisions. A person from New South Wales Rugby who called me in October, he was overseas with the board members when the person came home and rang me and said he thought he’d let me know that one of the board members main concerns is that the Wallabies don’t have a war cry. That’s what their main concern is and you wonder why we’re in a mess.
“I’d love to be involved! My forte is basic skills. If you can’t do the basics, you can’t do the flair. People get me wrong because when I coach kids I go to the coaches and say what would you like me to do today. I don’t say leave it with me, I’ll do it. I always ask the coaches what they want.
“The coaches here are educators. They have no idea what they’re doing. We need coaches like Chris Latham who understand flair and Danny Cipriani, who can play the game and be instinctive.”
Q: What was Eddie like as a player? Was he aggrieved he wasn’t capped?
DC: “Eddie was a good hooker. He was very competitive and very passionate. He loves sledging but we all did back in those days and we used to win. The important thing was winning. When you want to be a coach, you’ve got to understand why you want to win and why a team wants to win more than the others.”
Q: Why is South Africa so successful? Is their style of play good or bad for the game?
DC: “When you get to a World Cup final you don’t want to be a flair team and lose, you’ve got to win. In 1991, we were mentally drained going into the final. We were poor and we were gone mentally.
“In a final, would you want a team that wins by 40 points or a team that wins by 1? In this year’s final, I was thinking something is going to happen. I thought the Kiwis panicked. They went for the line but they didn’t know what to do. They destroyed themselves. No one also talks about the two goal kicks they missed, the All Blacks never miss.
“The All Blacks said the red card wasn’t fair but I’ve played against New Zealand 29 times and the amount of times I’ve been on the end of a loss because of the referee, it happens. Most of the world, it happens. Now they understand what we went through all those years.
“It’s not great that Sam Kane got sent off but unfortunately the TMOs have no idea what happens when you tackle in a game. That’s the part of the game we’ve got to fix up. The laws have got to change. There is far too much going back and letting the advantage go on for too long.”
Q: TMO becoming too involved?
DC: “If you look at the final, where I was sitting in the final I couldn’t see the scoreboard and I couldn’t find out what was going on for the first penalty. When Smith scored the try, I was thinking why is the hooker going to speak to the referee? Obviously something has happened here.
“The South African hooker followed Wayne Barnes and one of the linesman pulled him back to stop talking to Barnes. I thought he was going to punch him! He went to him and said can you have a look at the lineout so they showed the replay and you can see the linesman saying that there’s no problem but there wasn’t. He knocked the ball on and that’s the problem.
“The laws are so complicated that these guys have to go back and incorrect each other. It’s sad that in a game of rugby where it’s physical that there’s so much time wasted. The crowd then boos, we don’t want boos, we want excitement.
“We have to get rid of the old guys at the IRB and get some young guys in, it’s a modern-day sport! If you look at the Fiji vs Portugal game, they’re five metres out from the tryline then two phases later they’re back at the 22, they’ve got the ball and they’re going backwards because it’s all about defence.”
Q: Rugby League influence had a negative impact on Rugby Union?
DC: “Rugby League has had a shocking influence on our game because we’re professional. With Rugby League it’s all about defence. There’s one line and they’re all offside, you run into a brick wall. That’s not rugby union. Even with the Barbarians they’re trying to show flair but their play was so awkward. That’s why you need the Fijians because they want to play, they want to have fun.
“Eddie had twelve coaches with him in Australia. Half of them were Rugby League players who have never played Rugby Union in their life. It’s the root cause of it. Andy Farrell played five or six games for England, went to Ireland and they couldn’t get to the final because they’re so structured. They play the same way all the time, that’s why they lost to the All Blacks.
“Rugby used to be a game where you had great individuals who have been taken out of the game because coaches want structure. The coaches want the opponents to make mistakes.”
Q: Thoughts on scrum penalties?
DC: “In the 1991 World Cup, the scrums were perfect when the scrum took 11 seconds because the referee had nothing to do with it. These referees have never put their head in a scrum!
“Leave the scrum alone and let the players do what they want to do, put the ball in and go. The referees always ask the players to use it, it’s their ball they can use it how they like. The referees shouldn’t have anything to do with the scrum. It used to be about giving the ball to the backs and letting them set alight. Now it’s about getting a penalty.”
Q: Rugby Australia bringing back ex-players into the game?
DC: “They are scared because of the knowledge we have. You can become a Level 2 coach in Australia, but I’m a Level 2 coach in Australia and I’ve made over 100 appearances for Australia but you’re at the same level as me. They want coaches to be educators, not a coach. Coaches are told to keep players happy but the things I know from my playing day I can pass on to the current players.
“When you look at rugby now, everything is about rugby league and there’s so much kicking but there’s no switches. We were told don’t kick the ball away because it’s a 50/50 chance but now they kick the ball away.
“In England vs Argentina, the ball was kicked 80 times but England came from the easiest part of the draw where the Wallabies were. They didn’t play a team in the top five in the World Cup and you wonder why they slowed the ball down, they whinged, they celebrated penalties like they won the World Cup. To me, that’s not rugby, it’s boring.”
Q: South Africa hooker racism?
DC: “I spoke to one of the journalists who talked to Tom Curry after the game. He said what happens on the field stays on the field but it’s when the referee complains about what happened. The referee didn’t shake the South Africa captain’s hand because of what was said. The referee went to him and asked, “Can you ask what happened?”
“In Afrikaans, there’s a lot of words that are similar to bad words in English. Why would Bongi Mbonambi, who has been through so much in his life, do that to an opposition player? He wasn’t racist towards Tom Curry. Look at how proud they are, why would they want to destroy everything that Siya Kolisi and Rassie Erasmus have done?