Wallabies in a bubble as pressure mounts ahead of Wales showdown

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Pool C - Australia v Fiji - Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne, France - September 17, 2023 Australia's Angus Bell and head coach Eddie Jones before the match REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

LYON, France (Reuters) – The Wallabies say they are living in a bubble ahead of their crunch World Cup match against Wales on Sunday and leaving head coach Eddie Jones to bear the brunt of criticism from back home over their faltering start to the campaign.

A first loss to Fiji in almost seven decades last week means the twice world champions need to beat Wales in their third Pool C match to avoid a first ever World Cup exit before the knockout rounds.

Jones has confronted head-on criticism of his squad selection, his coaching style and his backroom staff and on Saturday his assistant Jason Ryles said that was shielding rest of the Australia party.

“The criticism back home?” he told reporters on Saturday. “Honestly, we’re in a bit of a bubble over here. So I think Eddie’s dealt with a lot of that by the sound of it.”

Replacement hooker Matt Faessler, one of the many young players Jones selected in his squad, said he was concentrating purely on the prospect of playing his fourth test on Sunday.

“In terms of the criticism, it probably goes over my head a bit. I don’t really receive or consume much media. So for me, that’s not really a concern of mine,” he said.

“In terms of the World Cup itself, and this game on the weekend, every time you put on the gold jersey it’s special and I’ve enjoyed and relished every moment.”

Ryles said there had been great clarity for players and backroom staff in the build-up to the Wales game.

“Eddie’s been great this week,” he said. “He’s really stepped up in regards to just being really clear on what he wants and what he expects from Wales, and how we can negate that and possibly attack their strengths.”

Jones has repeatedly declined to confirm that he would see out the five-year contract he signed with Rugby Australia in January, although he did suggest on Saturday he might get sacked if the Wallabies lose to Wales.

Styles, primarily a rugby league coach who also worked periodically under Jones in the England set-up, said he would be surprised if the 63-year-old did not stick around to lead the Wallabies into the 2027 World Cup on home soil.

“There’s a big job ahead for the next four years with the Wallabies, which he’s started already and got some pretty good foundations now, so to walk away from that would be a bit of a surprise,” he added.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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