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‘Would be a tragedy’: SBW feels for Gordon after early exit, says Jones got found out

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Saint-Etienne: Sonny Bill Williams has implored the Wallabies not to drop Carter Gordon and backed the rookie No.10 to improve, after he was replaced early in the second half against Fiji following a mediocre performance Eddie Jones said was not totally unexpected given his inexperience.

Jones’ bold decision to select a youthful squad for this Rugby World Cup, particularly in the key position of five-eighth, has come under fire following the Wallabies’ seven-point defeat to Fiji. It has left the door open for a shock pool exit if the team fails to turn things around against Wales.

Gordon, in just his seventh Test, was benched in the 50th minute after a number of mediocre moments.

The 22-year-old failed to catch a high ball, which led to Fiji’s only try of the match, and looked overawed by the occasion as he was targeted whenever he took a carry.

Last month, Jones decided against selecting Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley, both experienced playmakers at Test level, instead backing Gordon and back-up No.10 option Ben Donaldson.

The Wallabies’ next clash is against Wales on Sunday (Monday AEST), and Jones has several selection headaches. Australia must beat Wales to put themselves in a favourable position to qualify for a quarter-final.

Carter Gordon takes on two Fijians.Credit: Getty

“I feel for Carter Gordon right now because he doesn’t have a Quade Cooper or a Bernard Foley to go back to at the hotel and pull him aside and say, ‘Look bro, these things happen’,” Williams, a two-time World Cup winner, said on the Stan Sport broadcast.

“It’s really tough seeing him get pulled like that. I’m going to call it how it is. We’re in a high-performance arena and sometimes you live and die by your decisions. Eddie Jones got found out, unfortunately.

“Moving forward, what are [Australia] going to do about Carter Gordon? Personally, I would love to see Carter get another shot, just for the young man’s confidence. He’s been there or thereabouts the whole time for the last six or seven weeks. For him to be pulled out like that would be a tragedy.”

Jones was defiant when asked about Gordon.

‘I’ve got no regrets at all … Some of the young players are going to go through some pain.’

“When you’re a television commentator, you’re always right,” Jones said of Williams’ remarks. “Maybe I need to be a television commentator, then I’ll be right all the time.

“Carter is a young [five-eighth]. He’s going to have those days but he’ll bounce back, he’s a good young player.

“We’ve gone with a young team. I’ve got no regrets at all. We’re building a team for the future and we’re going to go through some pain. Some of the young players are going to go through some pain. You generally have an apprenticeship. He [Gordon] has plenty of support.”

Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi acknowledged that Gordon came off earlier than anticipated but indicated the youngster wasn’t too disheartened in just his second World Cup match.

“He got subbed pretty early but we’ve got to back what Eddie is feeling there,” Kerevi said. “Obviously, everyone is hurting, not just Carter. I let him down on the outside there, so I’ve got to pick up my [game] to help him.”

Australia have the youngest squad of all 20 teams in France, with 25 of the 33 players featuring at their first World Cup.

Jones made sweeping changes to Australia’s back line in the second half on Sunday by moving Donaldson into five-eighth from fullback and winger Mark Nawaqanitawase to fullback with the Wallabies chasing the game.

When Gordon was replaced, Australia trailed 19-8.

“We needed to get some momentum in the game,” Jones said. “I thought [Issak] Fines-Leleiwasa did that, Donaldson at 10 did that, Mark going to 15 did that and Suli [Vunivalu] scored us a try that put us back into the game. I thought they were positive changes that we made.”

Watch all the action from Rugby World Cup 2023 on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport. Every match streaming ad-free, live and in 4K UHD with replays, mini matches and highlights available on demand.

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