The rugby world was shocked when Eddie Jones dropped his Wallabies selection bombshells and left Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper off the flight to France.
But not Mat Rogers.
“I wasn’t really, I’ve got to be honest,” Rogers told Wide World of Sports ahead of Australia’s Rugby World Cup opener against Georgia on Sunday (AEST).
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“Let’s look at the last 10 years for the Wallabies. Do we want to keep picking the same players and get the same results?
“I don’t want to sound harsh but the reality is we haven’t got the results that we wanted as a nation over the last 10-12 years.
“It’s been horrific, to be honest. Changes need to be made.”
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The touring party has an average age of 26 and an average of 20 Tests per player, the lowest for an Australian World Cup squad since the victorious 1991 campaign.
Surprise captain Will Skelton, teenage gun Max Jorgensen and sparky halfback Issak Fines-Leleiwasa were among the big winners as the 0-5 Jones continues to search for his first win in 2023.
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“I know there’s a mentality of ‘well, if you can’t find someone better, do we replace players?’ Well we’re not going to know unless we give them the opportunity,” Rogers argued.
“The reality of coaching at the international level, and particularly Eddie coming into the situation that he was in, he had to run his selection trials on an international stage to find out what he had to work with, to find out what was, his best squad?
“He obviously feels like the players that he’s taken over there are his best squad.”
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Fiji will enter the World Cup as the highest ranked team in Pool C after leapfrogging the slumping Wallabies on the world rankings.
Fiji stunned England with a historic 30-22 win at Twickenham to rise to seventh in the rankings, ahead of England (eighth) and Australia (ninth).
That equals Australia’s worst ever world ranking.
“The players that have been left behind, who have been there and done that, haven’t got the job done,” Rogers said.
“So he needs to make changes and I’m OK with it. You know, I love Michael Hooper as a player. I think Quade Cooper is a phenomenal talent, but it’s time to move on and make some changes.
“Carter Gordon, I think he’s got tremendous talent and how are we going to know how good he is unless we put him into the furnace and find out. We’ve given other players the opportunity in the past and they haven’t delivered. It’s time to look into new and hopefully greener pastures and we get some results.”
Despite their shoddy form, bookmakers have installed Australia as warm favourites to top Pool C and advance to the quarter-finals.
There, they could meet Michael Cheika’s Argentina or England.
“Someone asked me recently, ‘do you reckon if they got (Joseph) Suaalii over here now it would help?’ I said ‘no, it’d be the biggest waste of money ever because the way we’re playing, he’s not going to see any ball, he’s not going to have an impact.’
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“If you’re getting the ball flat footed with a defence coming at you, it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re not going to create any damage.”
Dual code star Rogers played under Jones in Australia’s memorable run to the 2003 World Cup final.
He saw parallels between the selection of Waratahs whiz kid Jorgensen and that of a baby faced Matt Giteau two decades ago.
“He got taken on the tour at the end of 2002, hadn’t played any Super Rugby but Eddie identified something in him,” Rogers said.
“And he was right, you know, to do what he did and we saw Matt have a tremendous career. Competition wins at the Brumbies and overseas with Toulon and LA, I mean he was a leader and he was a great player and he saw it before anybody else did really.
“And I think he’s probably seen that in Max Jorgensen and he’s thinking about the future. I think this World Cup, as much as we want to win, it is more about the World Cup in four years time here and getting players prepared and ready for that and he certainly fits that.”
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