Eddie Jones, premiere! Returning to the head of the selection at the start of the year after a first stint (2001-2005), the Australian coach had yet to win any of his first five matches. Worse than that, Australia even remained on a sad record of two wins in thirteen games. Series now reversed. The Wallabies easily won against the Lelos (35-15). And with manner.
From the start, Eddie Jones' men were sharp. The young center Jordan Petaia (23 years old) flattens a few seconds after kick-off (2nd) to perfectly conclude a beautiful collective movement. No. 13 for the first try of the match, then No. 14 a few minutes later. Mark Nawaqanitawase already doubled the lead after nine minutes of play. A nightmare for the commentators, the Australian winger also became that of the Georgians during the match. 112 meters gained, intractable under high balls and five defenders beaten, match record. A full match for the 23-year-old. At the Stade de France, it was the Australian three-quarters who showed their advantage.
The public familiar with the Top 14 and the Champions Cup had their eyes fixed on the second row, made up of two European champions. But leaders Richie Arnold and Will Skelton were too discreet. “Only” seven successful tackles and two missed for the Rochelais, six successful and one missed for the Toulousain. Rare in defense, the double reigning European champion was just as rare in attack: 14 meters gained with the ball in hand and only one defender beaten. After the match, Eddie Jones wanted to defend his captain. “It was a good test of his leadership, a real credit to Will in the way he runs the team.”
If the five players behind were at the level, one of them particularly broke the screen. For his fifth selection, and his first start at the back, Ben Donaldson achieved almost everything. Impeccable against the poles and in his long game (15 points, 6/7 on goal), the Aussies' No. 15 was not left out in the current game. 120 meters run ball in hand, three defenders beaten and especially two tries. By planting twice (54th, 69th), the Waratahs player allows his people to take the offensive bonus. 25 points in total and logically elected man of the match.
“Ben was incredible,” praised Will Skelton. For a young guy (24 years old, Editor's note), he showed a lot of personality by playing at full-back even though he had never held this position in an international match. Eddie Jones, who had preferred this training fly-half to the experienced Andrew Kellaway (27 years old and installed in the position for two years), was satisfied with his choice. “His long kicking game was valuable. We knew that Georgia played a lot on the feet, a bit like France.
The halfbacks were not unworthy but made spots next to their attacking friends. Established in the scrum, the young Tate McDermott (24 years old) starts ideally and leads the Australian game perfectly but hit in the head, he gives up his place half an hour into the game (34th) to Nic White. The usual holder of the position (33 years old and more than 60 selections) has never been able to get to the level of his teammates. Often late or too slow. Next to him, Carter Gordon was better. Overwhelmed against the French in the last warm-up match, the opening half, who had left the foot game to Ben Donaldson, was more liberated. He is even on the last pass on Australia's fourth try.
A slight underperformance from the hinge but Eddie Jones prefers to retain the positive. “After a first group match, what we want is five points. And I believe we have five points, smiled the Australian coach, who was unable to give any news about his scrum half. We will go tomorrow (this Sunday) to Bordeaux and we will drink a good glass of red wine. The World Cup is about taking one step after another. We have a young team, it's a great learning experience for them. Each time, they will get a little better. We will see the improvements as the tournament progresses. We will always be confident about our future.”
After a wine getaway in Bordeaux, Eddie Jones and his troops will go to Saint-Étienne to challenge Fiji, another outsider in Pool C, next Sunday.