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Australia ‘not million miles off’ World Cup win, insists rugby boss

Scott Johnson was recruited to the newly-created role from a similar position with Scotland after mounting criticism of under-siege coach Michael Cheika.

Wallabies players. Picture: @Wallabies/Facebook.com.

SYDNEY - Australia’s new director of rugby Scott Johnson on Friday said there was no reason why the Wallabies can’t win the World Cup despite coming off their worst season in decades.

Johnson was recruited to the newly-created role from a similar position with Scotland after mounting criticism of under-siege coach Michael Cheika, who managed just four wins from Australia’s 13 Tests last year.

Johnson was upbeat about the task ahead for the 2015 World Cup finalists after officially taking up the job on Friday.

“We’re not a million miles off,” he said, about going one better and winning the title at this year’s tournament in Japan.

“We have as much chance as anyone else. We have a pretty formidable record, but we can’t rely on that, and don’t expect to.

“We are trying to get prominence in a very dynamic sporting landscape and we want to stand for something. Our rugby DNA is acumen and skill and that’s what I want to be.”

Australia, beaten in the 2015 World Cup final by New Zealand, have fallen to number six in the world and few give them much chance of lifting the silverware in Japan.

While Cheika survived the axe last season, his powers have been diluted.

He now has to answer to Johnson and sit on a three-man selection panel - himself, Johnson and the recently appointed Michael O’Connor.

But Johnson insisted the relationship would be “dynamic” with Cheika focused on coaching the team while he assumes responsibility for management of the Wallabies’ off-field programme.

“Cheik has got a great drive, great passion to get a team going good and I understand that,” said the Sydney-born 56-year-old, who became Scotland’s director of rugby in 2013 and oversaw a renaissance.

“You’re going to get times where we disagree and that’s fine. If you always agree you’ve got one too many, haven’t you?” he added.

“So, it’s going to be dynamic because we both want the best for the game and for the team. It’ll be good.”

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