“We have a policy that we won’t disclose any information about any candidates until we announce the new head coach, so unfortunately there is no comment from our president at the moment,” the spokesperson said. “The new head coach has not been decided yet.”
Just eight months have passed since Rugby Australia sacked Dave Rennie as Wallabies coach and announced the Kiwi would be replaced by Jones following the 63-year-old’s own dismissal as England boss late last year.
Jones is one of the last three candidates for the job after a highly confidential process which, according to the JRFU website, is being run by global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson and led by Troy de Haas, head of the company’s Asia-Pacific sport and entertainment practice.
The JRFU has insisted on running an independent process to appoint a world-class coach. Applications closed on August 18.
Jones last week denied being in the mix for the Japanese vacancy, dismissing a report from Japanese media that named him as a possible candidate as “bullshit and gossip”. South African coach Frans Ludeke was also mentioned in the report as a potential option.
Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan was influential in the decision to bring Jones back to Australia but will be faced with a huge problem if the Wallabies coach walks away.
The Herald contacted McLennan to ask whether he knew that Jones had interviewed with Japan. He said he had not spoken to Jones about the matter.
The Herald can also reveal Jones was open to the idea of attending a second interview, in person, with Japanese officials who have travelled to France for the World Cup.
Jones has a close relationship with JRFU president Masato Tsuchida. However, the JRFU may be inclined to hire a different coach to the one who helped Japan beat South Africa in a famous victory at the 2015 World Cup.
“A competitive remuneration package will be offered,” reads the candidate briefing document, obtained by the Herald. “The primary purpose of this role is to ensure that the Brave Blossoms are successful on the international stage … over the next four-year term.”
The JRFU, which has ambitions to host and win a Rugby World Cup within the next 16 years, has shortlisted a number of candidates with a strong connection and understanding of Japanese rugby.
Jones is under pressure to deliver with the Wallabies after the team’s surprise defeat to Fiji – Australia’s first in 69 years.
Earlier this year, Jones caused a stir by suggesting on a podcast that he would leave as Wallabies coach whether the team won this year’s World Cup or not. He then clarified his position but his involvement with the Japanese selection process suggests Jones had been contemplating a premature exit from Australian rugby.
Jones was sacked in 2005 by the Australian Rugby Union after a four-year stint as Wallabies coach.
On Friday, Jones refused to commit to the Wallabies beyond the World Cup, despite Rugby Australia luring him back to Australia on a five-year deal that runs until the 2027 World Cup on home soil.
“Well, I want to coach as best as I can on Sunday. That’s all I can say. That’s the only job I’ve got at the moment,” Jones said.
Wallabies assistant coach Jason Ryles said he would be surprised if Jones walked away from the role.
“I see his vision beyond the World Cup and it’s one of those things where he hasn’t said anything to us obviously,” Ryles said. “Basically, watch this space. There is a big job ahead for the next four years with the Wallabies, which he’s started already. He’s got some pretty good foundations down.
“To walk away from that would be a bit of a surprise because there is a lot of green shoots for the future. I’m not too sure what he’ll do to be honest with you. It’s good to have options by the sounds of it.”
The Wallabies play Wales in Lyon on Sunday night (Monday 5am AEST).
Watch all the action from Rugby World Cup 2023 on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport. Every match streaming ad-free, live and in 4K UHD with replays, mini matches and highlights available on demand.
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