Wales v Australia: Coaching rivals Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones reunited at World Cup

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Eddie Jones and Warren Gatland
Eddie Jones and Warren Gatland have 31 World Cup match victories between them
Venue: OL Stadium, Lyon Date: Sunday, 24 September Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Live BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport website & app; live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app.

Two familiar foes will tackle each other again on Sunday when Warren Gatland’s Wales face Eddie Jones’ Australia in a crucial World Cup match.

Both coaches have come back to international rugby just before the World Cup and are experiencing contrasting fortunes.

Wales are sitting top of Pool C with a maximum 10 points from games against Fiji and Portugal.

If they defeat the Wallabies, they will achieve a fourth successive World Cup quarter-final appearance under Gatland, but will be aware defeat will threaten their knockout hopes.

Under-fire Jones knows Australia have to win this weekend to stop him being on the brink of becoming the first Wallabies coach not to reach the knockout stages of a World Cup.

So the stakes are high. This duo are used to that.

Mutual respect

There is a mutual respect between the New Zealander and Australian.

“I have always got on well with Warren,” said Jones.

“We’d usually have a curry together when we were coaching in the Six Nations. He’s done a good job with Wales, he’s been interesting.”

Gatland added: “The relationship has always been good.

“We’ve been out on a number of occasions and had meals together. I find his company good, he’s engaging.

“It’s obvious he drives a lot of people hard. That’s been part of the success in the past and he’s going through that process at the moment.

“In a strange way we are probably going through some of the same things in terms of coming back, having limited preparation time and looking to rebuild for the future.”

Both are known as straight-talkers and have thrown the proverbial verbal barbs into pre-match build-ups.

They are sometimes designed to wind up opposition sides but also build the confidence of their respective squads and deflect criticism away from players.

Jones has taken the responsibility for only one win in seven games since he returned.

“As coaches we all come under pressure at times, that’s part of the job,” said Gatland.

“In fairness to Eddie, he’s trying to take as much pressure off the players as he can, saying he’s responsible for the results and that things aren’t good enough.

“I understand where he’s at. At the moment there’s not a lot being said in the press about players, no criticism being aimed at them.

“It’s all on Eddie. He’s probably more than comfortable for that to happen.”

The edge is still there this week with Jones stating he has “no doubt” Australia will win this weekend.

“They’re going to be desperate on Sunday, we’re desperate as well,” said Gatland.

“With the way that we’ve trained this week, the boys have been switched on and clear in how they want to play. I expect us to win on Sunday.”

Difference of opinion in Japan

Lyon will be the first time Jones and Gatland face each other in a World Cup, yet the duo still managed to cross paths in Japan four years ago.

After Wales had lost in the semi-final against South Africa, Gatland was asked in the post-match press conference how he thought England would cope in the final against the Springboks.

Jones’ England had defeated New Zealand 19-7 convincingly in the last four fixture and Gatland intimated that game may take its toll.

“We have seen in previous World Cups teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don’t always turn up for a final,” said Gatland.

“So it will be interesting to see how England are next week and it could be a good game.”

It was an honest answer to a question fired at Gatland just after he had suffered the disappointment of semi-final defeat, with the New Zealander insisting it was not a dig at Jones’ England. But it provoked a response.

“Well guys, can you just send my best wishes to Warren and make sure he enjoys the third-fourth place play-off,” said Jones.

That was a reference to Wales facing the All Blacks in the bronze-medal match that no team wants to play.

New Zealand won convincingly but Gatland’s assessment proved correct when South Africa overpowered England in the final 32-12 to become world champions for a third time.

Gatland admits the relationship has probably been a “bit more fractious” in press conferences than in real life.

“Often you get asked questions that are slightly twisted by the media and didn’t really say that when you look in the context,” said Gatland.

Head-to-head, background comparisons

Eddie Jones and Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland (right) has won three Grand Slams with Wales while Eddie Jones led England to a Six Nations clean sweep in 2016

Despite having also had stints as head coaches of Ireland, Japan and Australia between them over the last 25 years, Gatland and Jones have only previously been in direct competition when leading Wales and England.

Between March 2016 and August 2019, they faced each other six times, with Jones securing four wins to Gatland’s two.

Jones is a bit older at 63, with Gatland celebrating his 60th birthday last Sunday, the day Fiji beat Australia in Saint-Etienne.

They are both grizzled former hookers, with Jones playing for Sydney suburb side Randwick between 1981 and 1991 and New South Wales. He also played against the British and Irish Lions for New South Wales B in 1989.

Waikato stalwart Gatland played 17 non-international games for the All Blacks between 1988 and 1991 but never won a Test cap in a period during which New Zealand played 29 Tests.

Gatland went on four All Blacks tours but could not dislodge Sean Fitzpatrick. He has admitted since that experience has helped his coaching career.

World Cup pedigree

Neither Gatland nor Jones have won a World Cup as a head coach but both have tournament pedigree in spades with nine competitions between them, Gatland in his fifth and Jones at his fourth.

The pair are the most successful coaches for individual games won in the tournament’s history. Gatland has 16 victories in 25 games, compared to Jones’ 15 in 19 matches.

After leading Ireland in the 1999 World Cup, Gatland has guided Wales to three successive knockout stages, with semi-final-appearances in 2011 and 2019, either side of a 2015 quarter-final exit.

Jones has reached two finals as head coach, with Australia in 2003 and England 16 years later, and was part of South Africa’s backroom staff when they lifted the 2007 trophy.

He also masterminded one of the great tournament upsets when Japan defeated the Springboks in Brighton in 2019.

Never go back

Pool C standings: Wales lead with 10 points, Fiji and Australia are second and third with six points each and Georgia and Portugal have two points each

A legacy is threatened when coaches decide to return to a former job where they had previous success.

Gatland and Jones have both returned to old haunts and have had their challenges over the last few months

In his first spell in charge, Jones took Australia to the 2003 final, only to lose to England in extra-time.

After Jones left the England job at the end of 2022, Australian rugby chiefs took a gamble by bringing him back to replace Dave Rennie in January 2023.

The move has not paid off in the short-term, with Jones’ only victory coming against Georgia in Australia’s opening World Cup game in Paris.

Jones has stressed the importance of building towards the 2027 tournament and picked a young squad for France, leaving out Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper. Being in charge of Australia’s first pool-stage exit would not look good on his CV, though.

Gatland has also defied the “never-go-back” mantra after his initial 12-year stint with Wales concluded after the 2019 World Cup.

Welsh Rugby Union bosses decided Wayne Pivac’s reign must end in December 2022 and turned to a familiar face.

Two wins in eight matches in the 2023 Six Nations and World Cup warm-up games for Gatland followed, while a turbulent time off the field, as a potential player strike over contractual issues was averted.

Gatland insisted it was always about being ready for France and has turned Wales into the early Pool C pace-setters ahead of this latest showdown with Jones.

Who will be celebrating at the next curry remains to be seen.



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