Australia is traditionally one of the world’s strongest rugby nations, but they are currently having a very tough time of things as they switch from the Dave Rennie era to a second spell under Eddie Jones and try to recover from what a poor run of form that has seen them win just once since October last year.

With that in mind, the dismissal of Rennie in January came as no surprise to anyone, with it clear that the Wallabies were not going to have a chance of winning the Rugby World Cup under him, and his 36.4% win rate makes him comfortably the least successful coach in their history, with his tenure seeing them lose 18 of his 34 games in charge.

However, with Eddie Jones now back at the helm, things do seem to have levelled off a little and there is some optimism that they can get back to where they used to be, even if the World Cup will come too soon for them to be a genuine challenger.

Head Coach

Since returning to the role that he previously occupied between 2001 and 2005, Jones has spoken about there being no pressure on his side to lift the Webb-Ellis Cup this time around, with his aims instead being on using the tournament to rebuild their values of being well-planned, audacious, smart and playing with plenty of spirit and to ensure that, when the next World Cup comes around (which will be hosted by Australia), they are ready to compete once again.

By saying that, what is clear is that he understands the current situation that his players are in and that he recognises how this is not a short-term fix, and that he needs to create an environment in which they can make mistakes without feeling the pressure of the fans, as otherwise they will not develop and improve.

His return has already attracted positivity from those in the stadiums, with him cheered when shown on the big screen during a Waratahs match shortly after his reappointment, and the fans will be hoping that his return allows the Wallabies to get back to where they want to be.

Attacking play

From the early signs of Jones’ tenure, it looks as if Australia will focus on passing and kicking and trying to get onto the front foot in any way that they can, and Jones himself has spoken about the need to kick the ball in order to provide opportunities for the team to gain momentum. It is a tactic that he did champion at England for a time, with Owen Farrell going through a period of sending grubber kicks through opposing lines and targeting spaces behind defenders, and it did have some success for them.

In their opening match against South Africa in the Rugby Championship, there were positive signs for the Wallabies that employing this method of playing would give their quicker backs chances to press forward and create try-scoring opportunities, and they did build on that during the second game against Argentina.

However, the manner of their defeats in those games and during the two meetings with New Zealand means that, despite some early pleasing things, the overall picture of what their attack could look like when they are in full control is yet to really materialise.

Defensive play

The reason that they lost their opening three matches in the Rugby Championship, and that they have been so easy to score points against generally, is because they are not strong enough without the ball.

It comes down to simple mistakes that let them down, which will be the most frustrating thing, with missed tackles, players not positioning themselves correctly or being too narrow or just being too static when without the ball all playing their part, and all three of South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand found it so easy to push forward and to get their key names into the game for those reasons.

The Springboks in particular were allowed to make slick passes without there being any real chance of the ball being lost, whilst France in the final round of the Summer Nations Series had so much time on the wings to exploit the Australian high line due to the compact shape that the Wallabies were set up in.

If Australia do have aspirations to get back to where they used to be, then this is the area of their play that needs the most work doing to it, because, at the moment, it is only going to keep hindering their progress.

Key players

With Australia trying to kick and bring their quicker players into the game, they will be heavily reliant on the pace of players like Marika Koroibete and Mark Nawaqanitawase in the wide areas to ensure that they convert their chances.

However, with set pieces being vital in allowing them to get on the ball and dictate play, and being something that Jones clearly values, the experience of locks like Will Skelton and Richie Arnold will be just as important, with both being strong ball-carriers and powerful runners, and getting them on the ball could be critical if Australia are looking to win set pieces and to play on the front foot.

Tournament prediction

When Jones was brought in, Australia’s board stated that they hoped he would be able to turn the team around in time for this year’s World Cup and the 2027 edition, and that does make it sound like there is an expectation that the Wallabies go to France and perform.

However, it is too soon for them to really think about returning with the Webb-Ellis Cup in their possession, and it does need to be a case of making small incremental adjustments in their development under Jones if they are to make sure that they don’t run before they can walk.

For that reason, whilst they will be expected to get out of a pool that also contains Wales, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal and will be in the easier side of the draw, demonstrating during the tournament that they are improving and responding to Jones’ methods would be the most positive thing for them and would at least allow them to leave with some dignity intact.