When the news came through on Sunday night that former England boss Eddie Jones had been appointed as head coach of Australia for a second time, signing a five-year contract to replace Dave Rennie, there were many who raised their eyebrows in surprise.

Not only are the Wallabies the third major rugby power to make an alteration at the top, following Jones’ sacking by England in December and Wales’ decision to replace Wayne Pivac with predecessor Warren Gatland in the same month, but it is also an extremely risky time to do it, with the Rugby World Cup just a matter of months away.

Australian rugby fans will argue that it was the right call to make, with results and performances waning under former Glasgow Warriors boss Rennie, but that still doesn’t digress from the fact that there are a lot of risks that come with a change like this as well as the obvious benefits, and this article will weigh up both sides of the argument in order to see why England, Wales and Australia have brought in new faces and whether it was the right move to make.


International rugby is always full of intensity and scrutiny, with each decision debated by fans and the media alike. One of the obvious issues that can come from replacing the head coach this soon before a major tournament is that long-term planning can quite simply go down the drain, and it is highly likely that, in England’s case, this is something that they will have to swallow now that Jones, who is particularly well-known for having a long-term vision, is no longer in charge.

The result is that their new head coach, former Leicester Tigers boss Steve Borthwick, will not have a great deal of time to get his ideas across, and that could be to England’s detriment when the World Cup gets underway.

Nevertheless, the RFU have had Borthwick in mind for a long time as a potential successor for Jones and so will give him time, regardless of what happens in France in the autumn, and the fact that Australia and Wales have handed Jones and Gatland long-term contracts shows that they will likely think the same way.

The other issue is that some boards have problems domestically that need dealing with, and Wales are a prime example of that. The WRU have been in the news a lot in recent months for the lack of funding given to the four regions, who have been underperforming on the pitch of late, and supposed plans to restructure Welsh rugby.

The poor performances of the national side didn’t directly affect that, but there is a risk that the board might see the reappointment of Gatland as a way of solving those problems and keeping the regions onside. However, this is always a dangerous way of thinking because altering things at the top does not always mean that things get better further down the pyramid, and that is what any board needs to remember when making these calls.

It should be mentioned that all four of Cardiff, Ospreys, Dragons and Scarlets won their European fixtures at the weekend, which has not happened in more than six years and has restored some hope in the recovery of Welsh rugby, but there are still cracks in the system that will need addressing, even with Gatland’s return helping to reignite faith in the national team’s progress. Therefore, sitting back and thinking that the issues have been addressed is always a risk that comes with new appointments such as these.


When it comes to the benefits, there are far more of these to consider, and one is that boards can show that they listen to fans and respond when they are unhappy with the direction that the team is moving in.

In England’s case, this was particularly noticeable, with the RFU not appearing to act over Jones’ future until the fans had really turned on him following the defeat to South Africa. For Australia, it has been clear that they have lacked ideas for a while now, whilst there were demands after Wales’ shock loss to Georgia that Wayne Pivac was sacked too.

Fans play a very important role in sport, as was realised very quickly when Covid-19 forced matches to be played in empty stadiums, and boards know that they have to be kept happy if they want to retain their support.

Another major positive is that new coaches can lead to better squad atmospheres, and this is clearly something that England and Wales have thought about when picking their next coaches. In the RFU’s case, the fact that Borthwick was Jones’ assistant at the beginning of the Australian’s tenure means that he knows the majority of the players well and will already know the best ways of unlocking their abilities.

In Gatland’s case, there will still be many players involved in the setup who he helped to develop, so it should be a simple case of picking up where he left off on the whole, and that will be ideal for Wales as it will mean that very little transition time will be required and they can hit the ground running when the Six Nations gets underway in a few weeks’ time.

In Australia’s case, a lot has changed since Jones was last in charge (2001-2005), and he will need time to get to know the current crop of players and to deliver his messages. They will hope that he has the same long-term impact as he had with England, in that he will give them a much stronger chance of competing at World Cups, but it may take more time for him to settle into his new role than the other two.

However, what Jones does have that will be of benefit to the Wallabies is first-hand knowledge of what the fans expect from the team, so he won’t need to adjust to new expectations in that sense.


Ultimately, any team that changes their head coach this close to a major tournament is always taking a risk, but sometimes risks are needed to improve fortunes on the field. In the cases of England, Wales and Australia, improvements were desperately required and it is easy to see why they have taken the decision to bring in new head coaches, with all three struggling for form and not demonstrating over the last year what they are really about.

However, the question is whether they have come at the right time, with the World Cup just over the horizon, and that is what many fans will worry about. The coaches will need time to get results, so patience will be a necessity from all areas of the stadiums and boardrooms, but, with each of Jones, Borthwick and Gatland signing long-term deals, it is clear that they will be given time to implement their ideas. Whether they are the right appointments, or if it was the right time to appoint them, remains to be seen.