LYON: Richie Arnold summed it up sharply and succinctly.
“F– mate, what didn’t go wrong?” the Wallabies lock said when asked to unpack the humiliating 40-6 loss to Wales that marks a new low for Australian rugby.
Bernard Foley, the unwanted playmaker, also nailed the prevailing mood on Twitter.
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“It didn’t have to be like this!”
From an Australian perspective, the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be remembered for the Eddie Jones circus act but also a case of what might have been.
Handed a soft draw in Pool C, missing all of the true World Cup contenders, Jones oddly decided to cast aside stalwarts Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper as part of his ill-fated “smash and grab” campaign.
Foley was also overlooked and youngsters Ben Donaldson and Carter Gordon were overmatched in trying to wear the famous gold No.10 jersey on the game’s greatest stage.
Instead of blooding youngsters for a run at the 2027 World Cup, Jones has given himself a bloody nose and dented the confidence of several young players.
“It’s a devastating day,” Wallabies prop Angus Bell told Wide World of Sports.
“We’re shattered. It’s hard for us to put into words, I guess at the moment. We’re just sorry that we let down a lot of people back home.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of people that came over to France to support us also. And the people back home who got up early mornings to support us. So we’re incredibly disappointed.”
The broken players that braved the media mixed zone at OL Stadium all voiced support for Jones and claimed they weren’t affected by his reported flirtations with Japan.
“I think you’ve got a guy with a proven track record, right. It’s not his first rodeo. He is the first person to put his hand up and say the results haven’t been good enough,” fullback Andrew Kellaway said.
“There is a bigger picture in mind, I’m sure. A lot of these guys, in fact all of us, will be better for these experiences, which sounds like a horrible thing to say at this point. It feels strange to say that but it’s true.”
Kellaway didn’t think a lack of experience cost Australia against a Wales side that was itself in turmoil before the return of Warren Gatland.
“I think we just got bashed. At the set-piece they beat us, they out kicked us. They showed us how to manage a game,” he said.
“Pretty well every area of the game tonight we got beaten. You can call it what you want, we got beaten at rugby unfortunately.
“I don’t know if that’s an experience thing, that’s just a rugby thing.”