NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson is concerned Eddie Jones might have inadvertently robbed a generation of Australian rugby players of their attacking instincts during his five years in charge of the Wallabies.
Jones achieved much success as Test coach, guiding Australia to the 2001 Tri Nations title, Bledisloe Cup glory in 2002 and the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney.
But he did with a robotic outfit, instructing the Wallabies to play a regimented style of rugby that Gibson believed might have influenced a whole new era of coaches at grassroots level.
Gibson’s Waratahs produced a dreadful handling performance in Sunday’s Super Rugby loss to the Melbourne Rebels, leaving the former All Blacks star exasperated by some of the “rubbish” they served up in the first half in particular.
But with all five of Australia’s Super Rugby franchises struggling to keep pace with their more-polished New Zealand counterparts, Gibson on Wednesday admitted “there’s definitely a different philosophy” of coaching juniors on either side of the Tasman.
The New Zealander said Kiwis were far more adept at turning defence into attack, an assertion emphatically supported by the Chiefs’ rampant win over the Brumbies on Saturday, and he suspected Jones’ conservative approach more than a decade ago contributed.
“And it’s something that, here in NSW, we’re wanting to investigate to make sure our pathways and our kids coming through are taught the skills that we think are necessary to play running rugby,” Gibson said.
“It’s a structural thing. The difficulty for us is, I think, the Eddie Jones era of playing A, B, C-certain type of rugby. That lack of decision making has had an effect on Australian rugby in the fact that it’s very pervasive in the schooling system.
“And then so we tend to get our boys at 18 and probably their skills are very good but they’re just missing that decision making (skill) in an open environment.”
Gibson, who spent this week hammering the Waratahs with fundamental ball-handling skills ahead of their do-or-die derby with the Brumbies on Saturday week, conceded it was certainly a challenge being a Kiwi coaching an Australian Super Rugby side.
“But it’s a good challenge,” he said.
“And while I say we are not as good there, there are other areas that Australian players are very good and that’s the thing – you’ve got to capitalise on the strengths and not necessarily the weaknesses.”