Eddie Jones was doing his best impression of a second hand car salesman as he tried to put a positive spin on Australia’s humbling loss to Fiji at the World Cup after climbing out of bed the next day to discover his worst nightmare was real.
Conceding that he was no closer to figuring out things unravelled so badly for the Wallabies – but with no time to wallow in pity – Jones said he had already turned his attention to Australia’s next must-win clash against Wales.
“I woke up this morning hoping the result was different but it was still the same,” he said.
“The only thing we‘re worried about is Wales this week. We’d be happy to play them tomorrow if they were willing to play … we can’t wait for the challenge.”
Fronting the media for the second time in just over 12 hours, Jones did admit his team had been overawed by the physicality of the big Pacific Islanders.
But he said the Welsh presented a much different challenge which he thinks will better suit the strengths of his young, developing Australian squad.
“There‘s no problems with motivation,” Jones said.
“This team cares a lot about their performance but sometimes you play against a team that‘s a little bit better at you and if they’re better than you at the start of the game, that puts you off, which I think happened against Fiji.
“We’re all still searching for answers. None of us have the 100 per cent answer but we have ideas about where the game kind of came unstuck.
“But Wales are a completely different team, they’re a grinding team, they grind away at you whereas Fiji is all power, they hit you with counter-attack which we didn’t see much of.”
Despite being on the brink of missing the playoffs for the first time ever, the Wallabies will still go into their match against Wales as slight favourites, knowing if they win their remaining two pool games they can still make the quarter-finals.
The last time the teams played each other, in Cardiff last year, Australia won 39-34, and the Welsh have fallen on hard times since, struggling even more than the Wallabies.
Jones said the biggest challenge for him was getting his Australian players to lift again after the deflating loss to Fiji.
“These are the weeks you really remember when you‘re under the pump quite a lot and you’ve got to produce a good performance,” he said.
“This is probably one of the biggest challenges for this team and the coaching staff but we know how we want to play against Wales.
“We‘re going to work really hard to get the players back on track, so to speak, because when you have a loss like this, it knocks you around a bit, it knocks you around emotionally, it knocks around the team ethic wise, you start seeing shadows in every corner of the room, there’s noise from outside which you’ve got to handle.
“And that’s the challenge for the coaching staff this week to make sure they got the right noise.”
The team has already been roasted on social media after the loss but Jones said he wasn’t about to order players to shut themselves off from the outside world.
“That’s an individual choice for each player,” he said.
“They make their own decision on how they deal with social media. That’s not for us to tell them how to do it.
“Everyone makes a choice on how they run their lives. And for the players, it’s their choice.”
Jones defended the performance of rookie five-eighth Carter Gordon, who has come under fire, saying he needed better protection after being battered by the Fijians.
“I don’t think there’s any team in the world that doesn’t target the opposition 10 so that’s fairly normal practice. I can’t recall any team not doing that.
“They’re the key player, they’re obviously the conductor of the team and if you can get to them, you get to them.
“There‘s various ways you can look after your 10 and we’ll have a look at that this week.”
The Wallabies will be without their injured captain Will Skelton and tighthead prop Taniela Tupou against Wales.
And reserve hooker Jordan Jordan Uelese is also out after getting a head knock against Fiji.
But there is some better news with halfback Tate McDermott available after serving a 12-day mandatory stand down for a head injury he sustained in the win over Georgia.
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