Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Jones says Connolly to blame for loss

AFP , SYDNEY

Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has blamed his successor John Connolly for Australia's shock World Cup exit last weekend at the hands of old enemy England.

Connolly replaced Jones two years ago and there has been no love lost between the pair, particularly since Jones signed up as an adviser to South Africa for this year's tournament in France.

Jones told Sydney's Daily Telegraph that Connolly's decision to appoint Sterling Mortlock as captain over George Gregan was the key factor in Australia's 10-12 quarter-final loss to England on Saturday.

"It was a mistake not having George as captain," Jones told the newspaper. "The Wallabies lacked leadership in the game against England. The Australians never got together to work out what to do, which George was always good at."

"He's been criticized as half-back in recent times -- some of the stuff was right, some of it wrong -- but you could never criticize his captaincy," Jones said.

Jones said Gregan had not wanted to undermine Mortlock's captaincy on the field.

"It showed out that he didn't want to overrule the bloke in charge," he said.

Jones insisted his comments were not a criticism of Mortlock, saying it was difficult for anyone to captain from the No. 13 position.

"I don't think he was very experienced in that situation at the weekend," he said.

"Quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals at a World Cup are life and death, it's not your normal Test footy. The intensity exacerbates strengths and weaknesses. I don't think it was Stirling's fault, it was a matter of circumstance," Jones said.

Jones, who was sacked after the Wallabies lost eight out of nine games, said the England game also showed that claims the Australian scrum had made massive improvements since he departed were not accurate.

"It has improved but not that much and there were repercussions elsewhere," he said.

The defeat was Connolly's last match as Wallabies coach, with the Australian Rugby Union launching an international search for a replacement.

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