SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia have as much chance of winning the Rugby World Cup as any team at the tournament, according to new director of rugby Scott Johnson.
The 56-year-old began his tenure on Friday after a similar role with the Scotland Rugby Union, where he was credited with laying the groundwork for the national team’s improvement in recent years and a rejuvenated domestic set-up.
Although the Wallabies won only four of their 13 tests in a dreadful 2018 season and have slumped to sixth in the world rankings, Johnson was refusing to buy into the gloom.
“We have as much chance as anyone else,” he told reporters in Sydney of the Wallabies’ World Cup hopes.
“We’re not a million miles off.
“Everyone talks about the problems in Australian rugby from afar … but there’s a lot of countries around the world that wish they had the same problems.
“They got to the last World Cup final (and) … we have a pretty formidable record but we can’t rely on that, and don’t expect to.
“Our rugby DNA is acumen and skill and that’s what I want to be. That’s what we’re renowned for.
“We’re a bright rugby nation. We want to be a skilful one and I think on the rugby landscape that’s where I want us to be seen.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will effectively report to Johnson, who will be on a three-man selection panel with Cheika and former dual international Michael O’Connor.
Johnson said he did not expect the three to agree on everything that was debated around the table.
“There are going to be times we all disagree, that’s fine,” Johnson added. “If you get two people who always agree, you’ve got one too many.
“Cheik’s got great drive, great passion to get a team going good, and I understand that.
“It’s got to be dynamic because we both want what’s best for the game and the best for the team.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Ransom)