Just hours before the Wallabies were due to play a key Rugby World Cup Pool C game with Wales in Lyon, Rugby Australia released a statement backing coach Eddie Jones in light of an overnight report linking him with a return to Japan.

"I take people at their word, and Eddie's said there's nothing in it. So, as far as I'm concerned, that's the end of the story, and everyone's focus is on this weekend's crucial game against Wales," RA Chief Executive Phil Waugh said.

Australia head coach Eddie Jones speaks to the media following a Rugby World Cup match between Australia and Fiji on Sept. 17, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Getty/Kyodo)

Waugh's statement followed a report in the Sydney Morning Herald that Jones, who only took on the Wallabies job in January, had recently had an online interview with the Japan Rugby Football Union about a return to the national coaching job he held from 2012 to 2015.

Japanese media have repeatedly brought up Jones' name -- along with those of former head coach John Kirwan and Frans Ludeke, who led Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay to the League One title this year -- as a potential replacement for Jamie Joseph, who is returning to New Zealand after the World Cup.

Jones last week dismissed those reports saying they were "bullshit and gossip."

Much of the speculation revolves around Jones' close relationship with JRFU President Masato Tsuchida, a former player and head coach of Suntory Sungoliath, now Tokyo Sungoliath.

Australia head coach Eddie Jones is pictured prior to a Rugby World Cup match between Australia and Georgia on Sept. 9, 2023, in Paris. (Getty/Kyodo)

Jones began his coaching career in Japan at Tokai University in 1995 before becoming an assistant coach with the national team and Sungoliath for a year in 1996 and 1997, respectively. He returned to Suntory as head coach from 2009 to 2012 and is still retained by them as "Director of Rugby (Consulting)."

Jones coached the Brave Blossoms to rugby's greatest upset when Japan beat South Africa at the 2015 World Cup. He left Japan following that tournament, initially to coach South African Super Rugby side, the Stormers.

But he left just eight days into the job after the Rugby Football Union came calling. He remained with England until December 2022, when he was axed following a string of poor results.

Eddie Jones hugs Amanaki Lelei Mafi after Japan pull off a stunning win over South Africa in Brighton, England, in their opening game at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. (Kyodo)

Jones is contracted with Rugby Australia until 2027 when the nation will host the next World Cup. The 63-year-old was in charge of the Wallabies in 2003 when Australia last hosted the tournament, losing 20-17 in the final to England in extra-time.

A loss for the Wallabies on Sunday night against Wales would almost certainly see them eliminated from the pool stages for the first time in World Cup history.

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