'49 players doesn't go into 33': Takeaways from Eddie Jones' first Wallabies squad

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has given the first [official] indication of how his Rugby World Cup planning is progressing, unveiling a 33-man squad to attend a short camp on the Gold Coast later this month.

While Jones was spied with a "Draft 1" set of notes for the camp at Super Round in early March, he has now shown an early hand of just what he is thinking across a number of crucial positions, as well as his thoughts on who and how many players from overseas might be included, and also that age won't be a factor when it comes to selection.

Read on as we break down some of the key takeaways from Sunday's announcement.


It is generally considered that Quade Cooper will be the Wallabies fly-half at the World Cup, providing he is fit enough and can get some rugby under his belt after a long layoff with an Achilles injury.

But Carter Gordon's inclusion in Jones' squad on Sunday was a reward for his excellent form for the Rebels in Super Rugby. While Melbourne have won just two games, they have been in the fight in every contest and Gordon has been there leading from the front.

His attacking style, ability to take the ball to the line, and willingness to put his body in front of opponents defensively have all clearly impressed Jones.

"I love his competitiveness, and as I was speaking about before, he's got that feel of the game of when to flatten up and when to be a little bit deeper, which is a bit of a lost art," the Wallabies coach said.

"He's instinctively got that, he's courageous; I really enjoyed his game yesterday, his side got absolutely pumped in the first half. At one stage you thought you were going to see the Rebels floating out on the Pacific Ocean they were getting that pumped. But he hung in there, he missed a couple of tackles, hung in there, kept doing the simple things well and put himself on show.

"They're the sort of players we like to see, they're never beaten, he never thought his side was beaten, he just kept going and going. And ultimately that's the side we want to produce for Australia, that's the side people want to see, that they're always fighting, always in the fight, always never get beat. And to do that we need players who want to do that and he's certainly got loads of that at the moment."

The Waratahs' Ben Donaldson, on the other hand, has been well below his best and on Saturday night made the vital error of kicking out on the full as NSW attempted to exit their own half late in the contest. The Brumbies took complete advantage of the mistake, scoring the match-sealing try a few minutes later.

However, Jones says he liked what he saw when Donaldson played fly-half on last year's spring tour, which included his first run-on start in the win over Wales.

"Donaldson I was impressed by at the end of November series when he came on and played for Australia, and obviously he hasn't had that much time at 10 but we'd like to have a look at if he can," Jones said.

"I love what I saw at the end of the season. He's only played a couple of games at 10 and we'd like to see what he's capable of doing."


Arguably the biggest selection shock came with the inclusion of 18-year-old Max Jorgensen, who after just four Super Rugby games will don a Wallabies training shirt for the first time.

Jorgensen has four tries already in his professional career, but it was a sublime break and try assist against the Brumbies on Saturday night that perhaps best exemplified his class.

"He's got pace, mate. Big thing about Test rugby is having pace, particularly in the back three. He's got pace," Jones said of Jorgensen. "He's got a great instinctiveness about him. He's got courage. He's got all the attributes of being a very good Test player and he's made a good start. And his challenge now is to keep improving."

The Brumbies' Corey Toole was also thought to be in the running, but Jorgensen is clearly ahead of him at this point in time, despite concerns over the Waratahs rookie's slighter frame and suggestions that in his first year of professional rugby -- he has already missed two games through injury -- the rigours of the Test arena might be too much for him to handle.

Again, Jones doesn't see it that way.

"Again, I'll borrow an expression from Bob Dwyer. I don't think it's about age, it's about whether they're good enough. And whether they're good enough is whether they're tough enough, whether they're robust enough to handle it," Jones said.

"And what I've seen so far is the answer to that, Max is, yes.

"But again, we've got an opportunity to test drive him around the circuit at Sanctuary Cove and see if he's got the quality for Test rugby. But certainly at the moment, the answer to that is yes."


While Jones made it clear he would not be discussing players who were not among his 33-strong group, he did reveal he had either spoken with them individually or intended to do so

At the top of that list were Reds senior players Tate McDermott, James O'Connor, Harry Wilson and Liam Wright.

Jones included only two halfbacks in his training squad -- Nic White and Ryan Lonergan -- but that is likely to change for the World Cup, which should only serve to further motivate McDermott and Waratahs skipper Jake Gordon.

But it's hard to see either O'Connor or Wright figuring from here, which leaves only Wilson who must be wondering what he has done to continually miss selection, first under Dave Rennie and now under Jones.

Wilson was arguably the Reds' best in their loss to the Crusaders, putting in another 80-minute performance that yielded an incredible 18 runs for 102 metres, with three clean breaks and three beaten defenders.

There is obviously a deficiency in his game -- perhaps it is on the defensive side of the ball as Wilson missed four tackles in Brisbane -- because his work rate can't be faulted.

And then there is Suliasi Vunivalu, who did make the 33-man training squad but barely appeared to get out of second gear in the loss to the Crusaders.

Vunivalu simply does not look fit. His inclusion appears to be one on potential alone, but after two-and-a-half years in the game he has done little to suggest he deserves a spot on the plane to Paris.

"Contradiction is a big part of selection. You're always trying to find players you feel can be world class," Jones said in defence of Vunivalu. "That's the ultimate task is to find players who can be world class.

"And I've seen Vunivalu play for Melbourne Storm. I've seen him play in NRL. I've seen bits and pieces of his play for Australia A, and bits and pieces of what he's done for Queensland. There's a lot of gaps in his game at the moment. But our job as coaches is to help him fill the gaps. So if you've got a cattle prod at training get it out, it might help him."

Josh Flook was another Queenslander to make it, alongside No. 7 Fraser McReight, the 21-year-old centre rewarded for some fine performances both in the midfield and on the wing.


Jones named a seven-strong "Zoom" contingent, who will join the camp digitally from their overseas bases in either France or Japan.

Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi [TBC], Marika Koroibete, Richie Arnold, Will Skelton, Bernard Foley and Tom Banks [TBC] were those players and Jones was quick to reinforce the "quality" of the group.

But if the World Cup was being held tomorrow, Jones would have access to just three of those players. However, as was the case with his predecessor Rennie, it appears he is pushing Rugby Australia for the "Giteau Law" to be further extended.

"We won't have to make that decision until we make the World Cup squad, but there are discussions going on about that," Jones said. "But certainly if you look at those players who are going to join by Zoom, they're pretty talented players.

"But again, talent isn't everything, they've got to be prepared to work hard and commit themselves to Australia, and then in some cases that might affect their contracts overseas. So there's some work to be done in that area finding out who the right players are, what level of commitment they've got, how hard they're prepared to work, but they've certainly got talent there.

"And the discussion with Rugby Australia will be ongoing, but again we don't need to make a final decision until we make a final decision on a World Cup squad, which I imagine will be sometime in mid-August."

And Richie Arnold is not a typo either, in case it was his twin brother Rory you thought should be there. Rory is currently not playing because his Hino Red Dolphins withdrew from the Japanese League One season on account of off-field indiscipline.

Jones likes what he sees in the uncapped Richie, though.

"He's a massively tough player," he said. "Toulouse build their pack around Richie Arnold. I went and met the coach of Toulouse and we had a chat about him and what he brings to their team and his development as a player.

"He's a very young player by playing experience and training experience. So I feel like again, he's one of those players. It's got a lot of development and a lot of growth in him."


When it all boils down to those final weeks to the World Cup, there may only be a handful of positions, barring injury, that are still to be filled during the shortened Rugby Championship.

Players will come back from injury as well -- think Angus Bell and Taniela Tupou who are on the longer-term list -- while the overseas contingent will also figure, and likely swell.

It means those not included on Sunday, no matter how early this juncture may be, are already starting behind the metaphorical eight-ball.

On the flipside, the likes of rookie Brumbies' prop Blake Schoupp, recalled Rebels rake Jordan Uelese, and guys like Jorgensen will have an extra spring in their step moving forward.

Whatever the case, this may turn out to be the most competitive race for a Wallabies' World Cup squad in recent memory.

"As I said, all these 33 players are strongly in World Cup selection, as are the six guys on Zoom, and there's another anywhere from six to 10 players that are going to be knocking on the door," Jones said. "And all those players don't go into 33; last time I taught maths 49 players doesn't go into 33.

"So there's going to be hot competition and all the players who get to come to the first camp, they get to put their tyres on, they get to pump it up, they get to see how fast they can go."