Jones slams extra Aussie team

Johannesburg - Former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones on Thursday said an extra Australian team should not have been added to the Super rugby competition.

The Melbourne Rebels are the new franchise named to play in the inaugural Super 15 next year, Sanzar (South Africa New Zealand Australia Rugby) having decided to expand the current Super 14 tournament. But Jones, who coached the Brumbies to the 2001 Super 12 title and also coached the Reds in the Super 14, said the Rebels should not have been included.

"The reason they're in is because of TV rights. The current 14-team competition is just starting to find its feet and this year is the most competitive it's been for a while, with eight or nine teams in contention. The addition of another Australian franchise is not good for Australian rugby nor for the competition," Jones told Reuters in Johannesburg on Thursday.

The man who steered the Wallabies to the 2003 World Cup final said the current four Australian franchises were trying to eke out quality players as it is.

"Another Australian side is just going to weaken the third and fourth teams. If you consider South Africa, they have a great number of players but can still only support four very good Super 14 sides. It's unrealistic for Australia to have five teams and it will be bad for Wallaby rugby in the short-term, for the next 10 to 15 years," Jones said.

The Melbourne Rebels have been allowed an exemption to sign 10 overseas players and have announced Waratahs hooker and former Wallaby Adam Freier, former national captain Stirling Mortlock and England flyhalf Danny Cipriani as their first acquisitions.

But Jones said he believed the Rebels would struggle due to a lack of top-class players. "They haven't exactly signed a whole lot of quality players. There are only two areas in Australia that produce rugby union players - New South Wales and Queensland - and if you are a youngster from there and you have a choice between Melbourne or Perth to live in, it's a no-brainer where you'll go.

"So the Force are the side that will really be affected and they're weak enough as it is. They spent huge amounts of money on players like Matt Giteau and Nathan Sharpe, and now what?" Jones said.

The Force are currently 13th in the Super 14 standings, having won just one of their seven matches. Jones did, however, have praise for the new law interpretations being used in the Super 14, which he said have reduced the amount of kicking that caused so much ire last season.

"It's the best thing to happen to rugby. Last year we had 65 to 70 kicks per game and now it is down to 50 so there is a much greater balance between attack and defence. The quality of the rugby is much better." Jones is in South Africa as a coach for the Winning Ways program set up by Jake White, whom he assisted when the Springboks won the World Cup in 2007.

White said he also favoured the new law interpretations, but was quick to point out that a territorial kicking game will still be vital and that it remained a cardinal sin to try and run the ball from your own 22m area. "The changes have been fantastic and they've allowed more attacking spark. But you still need field position - 74% of tries have been scored from the first three phases, so there is still an emphasis on territory and a kicking game is still important," White told Reuters. "It's still no use keeping your own ball through 10 phases and not getting away from your own territory."

White said he did not believe rugby needed to go as far as increasing the number of points for a try in order to encourage attacking play.

"Maybe you should only get a bonus point if you score four tries more than your opposition though, because that would keep the intensity through 80 minutes," White said.

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