Eddie Jones calls for 'Three Amigos' cull
March 27, 2013
Kurtley Beale (c), James O'Connor (r) and Quade Cooper in happier times for the talented trio © Getty Images
Former Australia coach Eddie Jones believes Robbie Deans should consider dropping one of Australian rugby's "Three Amigos" in order to improve team unity ahead of the British & Irish Lions tour in June.
Jones said despite their obvious ability, James O'Connor, Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper have frustrated the Australian Rugby Union with their off-field behaviour and thinks the Wallabies must look to players with greater leadership qualities.
"I think they've got a big decision to make with Quade Cooper, Kurtley [Beale] and James O'Connor," Jones told Live Sport radio in New Zealand on Tuesday. "I don't know the best way to describe them. They're brilliant players at their best, [but] off the field they're probably not team leaders, and they are probably going to struggle with three of them being in the same squad."
"That's where Robbie's got to make a decision on possibly which two he keeps and which one he makes expendable, because they all have had enormous problems off the field," Jones added. "The three of them together in a team ... if you've got enough of those blokes in a team they cause a few problems, and I think that's been the case in the past couple of years with Australia."
Jones believes the race to wear the Wallabies No.10 jersey was between Cooper or Beale, but is concerned about both players' consistency.
"If you watch Quade over the last few weeks, [his improvement] has coincided with the comeback of [Reds halfback Will] Genia," Jones said. "Genia knows when to give him the ball and knows when the ball is good enough for him. He [Genia] takes a lot of the rubbish ball himself. [But] whoever plays 10, and they've both [Cooper and Beale] got instinctive skills, but the big thing they are both missing is consistency of performance and at Test level that's everything."
Jones also hit out at what he describes as a "ridiculous" decision to expand the Australian conference to five teams, arguing that the dilution of talent had created an environment in which players have become accustomed to losing.
"The Australian conference has been disappointing," Jones said. "I've never seen so many people stand still and catch a ball. There is a stark contrast in the level of play in the Australian conference compared to the New Zealand conference at the moment."
Despite the criticism, Jones maintains Australia can still put a strong side together to face the British & Irish Lions.
"Amongst that you've got very good players at the Waratahs, very good players in Queensland, who generally have been the bulk of the Australian side over the last couple of years," he said.
"[Also] You've got some young guys at the Brumbies coming through. Young [Jesse] Mogg at fullback could be a very, very good Test player. So we can put together a good team.
"It's going to be important that early on they decide on the style of play. That's probably been a worry with the Australian side over the last few years. They've tended to fluctuate wildly between different ways of playing the game. They need to come to a consensus on how they're going to play and I believe they can put together a very, very good team."