The Wallabies have been handed a massive reality check heading into the Rugby World Cup after Eddie Jones' side were thrashed 41-17 by France in their final warm-up game on Monday morning (Aussie time). Jones made the bizarre decision to leave out a noted goal-kicker from his starting 15, and rookie five-eighth Carter Gordon missed out on 10 points with the boot at Stade de France.
The Wallabies' discipline was also a major issue, conceding 14 penalties as France kept the points ticking over. The loss marks the Wallabies' fifth on the trot since Jones took over in a concerning trend just two weeks out from the World Cup.
Halfback Tate McDermott said his team were "letting themselves down". The vice-captain told Stan Sport: "There were a couple of penalties that just relieved pressure and against a team like France, with the skill of their backs, we just gifted them field position and to their credit they capitalised on those errors.
"The solutions have got to come from us - Eddie is doing his best but we're letting ourselves down out there. We've got two weeks to find a solution for Georgia because they're a bloody good side so we've got to make sure we front there."
The Wallabies start their World Cup campaign against Georgia on September 10, and Jones is remaining upbeat despite the winless run. "Within the camp we have a fair bit of confidence," he told reporters after the game.
"We'd like to have a better win/loss record. We're trying to play a different way and the results haven't been good enough but we do have a long term plan for the World Cup and that's what we're here for."
Jones said the goal-kicking woes were "100 per cent a concern." He added: "But all we can do is work with the young kid. We've got young kids in this team and we're backing them, and he'll get better."
Wallabies fans left fuming over 'dreadful' scenes
The Wallabies actually scored three tries compared to France's four, but never looked like beating one of the tournament favourites. They trailed 16-5 at half-time, with Gordon leaving eight points on the field after failing with a try conversion plus two penalty kicks.
Mark Nawaqanitawase was the Wallabies' sole try-scorer of the first half, finishing off a beautifully-worked set move, with Andrew Kellaway finding the winger with a long pass. Wallabies flanker Fraser McReight dived across under the posts in the second half, but France immediately replied through winger Gabin Villiere to push the lead out to a commanding 31-12.
Former NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu, who was a shock selection in Jones' World Cup squad, had his best performance in the gold jumper and scored a 77th minute try. Vunivalu was unlucky to get a yellow card early in the second half after getting tangled at a ruck and pinged for going off his feet.
"I was thinking about a number of players that are improving and Suli's one," Jones said. "He scored one good try, could have scored a couple more. He looked like he was ready to play at the highest level."
Despite Jones' optimism, fans and pundits were highly critical of the Wallabies' display. The goal-kicking proved a huge cause for concern heading into the World Cup.
Eddie Jones 0/5 with @wallabies Speaks the greatest game, entertains us all with his chirps but has never delivered as head coach. Awful decision to axe the likes of Hoops & Quade. His tenure with Aus reminding me of his 0/14 with Reds in Super Rugby. @rugbyworldcup
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) August 27, 2023
@wallabies just look so awful. Absolutely clueless. No skill. No structure. No game plan in #Paris.
17-41 loss. They have forgotten how to win.
Blame Eddie Jones!!!!@FranceRugby were average but showed signs of how dangerous they can be.
Bring on the RWC!!!!#FRAAUS pic.twitter.com/ykLuAyCyDv
— Sporting Around (@Sporting_Around) August 27, 2023
Dreadful kicking alone kept us out of this match. Arguably could’ve won that if not for that factor! #FRAAUS
— Dr. Zechariah XV 🇦🇺🇳🇿 (@ZechariahXV) August 27, 2023
Terrible execution of basic skills.
Does not augur well for The Wallabies in @rwc2023
— Pierre Jacobs (@Meatman_WP) August 27, 2023
Just finished the Wallabies game, a fair few positives but Gordons kicking and Vunivalus yellow were costly both cost us 21 points. Nic White has to start and kick. #FRAAUS
— Sambo1600 G (@GSambo16) August 27, 2023
Goal kicking and silly penalties continue to dog the Wallabies. Not much improvement visible, except for Eddie’s project, Vunivalu, who was good.
— Stuart Parker (@Stuparker7) August 27, 2023
Noah should have been the 10 the whole time… what an absolute farce…
And bloody foley will probably end up there… omg, such an epic fail.
Best team in Australia has how many members in there?
Trying 2 build a winning culture by picking the guys who continually lost? Really?
— Rebel Masculine (@RebelMasculine) August 27, 2023
Eddie Jones is dillusional. Wallabies are a joke.
— John John Jack🔞☣️🇦🇺 (@JackJohnJack9) August 27, 2023
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