Rugby World Cup: Sir Steve Hansen leaps to defence of embattled coach Eddie Jones after Wallabies' Cup disaster

All Blacks coaching great Sir Steve Hansen has staged a vehement defence of Australia head coach Eddie Jones in the wake of the Wallabies' shock impending exit from the Rugby World Cup.

Jones has been lambasted across the ditch after his side's 40-6 demolition by Wales on Monday (NZ time) - which closely followed a first test loss to Fiji in 69 years - that will likely see the two-time champions miss the knockout stage of the tournament for the first time.

Critics have taken aim at everything from Jones' selection policies to his combative public approach, with leading commentator Peter FitzSimons among those labelling his position as "untenable."

Exacerbating Jones' predicament have been reports from Australia's Sydney Morning Herald that he'd been involved in discussions with Japan about rejoining the national team as head coach with over four years left on his contract with the Wallabies.

Hansen has recently spent time in close quarters with Jones, having been embedded in the Wallabies' World Cup camp in an unofficial advisory role and remains adamant his "old mate" is still a "great coach".

The two-time World Cup winner believes the issues with Australian Rugby go far beyond simply the coach are an indicative of a systemic problem, that includes player and coach development, for which Jones has become a scapegoat. 

"I think he has been a great coach. He still is a great coach," Hansen told AM on Tuesday.  

Eddie Jones.
Eddie Jones. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It'd be really, really easy to turn around and talk about the coaching and the players. But the inconvenient facts are that Australian rugby needs an overhaul and it has done for some time.  

"They haven't won the Bledisloe Cup for 20 years. They've gone through a cycle of sacking coaches Robbie Deans, Dave Rennie, Ewen McKenzie. It doesn't work.  

"What they've got to do is actually peel the onion back and have a look at what what's not going right. Are they developing coaches properly? I don't think so. Are they developing their players properly? I don't think so. Is the Super Rugby competition right for Australia having five teams? I don't think so."  

Despite entering the competition winless since taking charge of the team at the start of the year, Jones was bullish about the team's prospects at rugby's pinnacle event, publicly stating the Wallabies would win the World Cup.

Hansen referenced the All Blacks' disappointing quarter-final exit in 2007, which he says forced New Zealand Rugby to take a harder - and overdue - look at itself in the mirror.

"If the worst thing he's done is say that they can win the World Cup and they haven't then he'll join a lot of other coaches," Hansen said.  

"In 2007, we thought we were going to win it and we got beaten. It forced the NZ Rugby Union to answer some of the questions that needed answering that were just not surface questions. They were the ones that were a bit deeper, and Australia needs to do that. Until they do that, they're not going to get any better.  

"They're very tribal. All the decisions they make, if you look at Australia, what they're really great at- and the State of Origin is a classic example of it - state vs state.  

"If you're making decisions that are based on the state and of the national game, then you're not going to get things right. They have to go back and force themselves to look at that. Once they get that right, then they can start looking at have we got the right coaches and the right players."

Regrading Jones' dalliance with Japan, Hansen dismissed the reports as media speculation, suggesting firing yet another coach would be merely a band-aid solution.

"If you know Eddie Jones, there's not a more committed coach in world rugby," he noted.

"Let it play out and find out... if this is the case, then it's another issue. But it's not the issue that is forced Australian rugby to be looking like it's looking.  

"There's a whole raft of things that need to be looked at in Australian rugby and until they look at all of them, rather than just looking at Eddie Jones or the players [they'll continue to struggle]."

Jones has been heavily criticised for leaving the likes of veterans Michael Hooper, Quade Cooper, and Bernard Foley at home in favour of more youth.

But Hansen says the coach's selection policy hasn't impacted the Wallabies, whose struggles in France he reiterates are more deeply rooted.

"They weren't good enough," said Hansen.  

"You can put Michael Hooper, you can put Quade Cooper or Bernard Foley in there. What's it going to change?"