Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson


“Cheik’s got great drive, great passion to get a team going good and I understand that,” Johnson said. “There are going to be times we all disagree, that’s fine. If you get two people who always agree, you’ve got one too many haven’t you.

“It’s got to be dynamic because we both want what’s best for the game and the best for the team. He’ll want the best for the Wallabies and we have a longer-term view of it too.

“You’re not always going to win friends, there’s going to be tough decisions to make.

“I think I’ve got a strong personality too, we’re in a people’s business.”

Asked if he’d spoken much to Cheika in recent times, Johnson said: “We’ve had the occasional phone call, put it that way, just to catch up. It’s amazing, the pigeon here is gone, so we do catch up occasionally just on the phone.

“As I keep saying to the people upstairs, we’re in show-business not tell-business, so I’m going to show people.”

Johnson said his first month would involve a road trip to each of the four Super Rugby clubs to get a “good understanding of the lay of the land”.

He was reluctant to make a call on a number of pertinent issues, such as the appointment of a Wallabies attack coach, a replacement for Cheika after the World Cup, should he not continue on, and whether Michael Hooper’s position as Wallabies captain would be up for debate.

“I will get my feet under the desk and talk with Cheik and go through our options,” Johnson said.

“There are plenty of options out there [for an attack coach]. That decision [to sack Stephen Larkham] was made internally here before [I arrived]. I was sitting in an ivory tower somewhere else, so I’m not going to sit there and pass judgment on that because that’s the height of arrogance to do so.”

Asked if an interim attack coach just for this year was an option, Johnson said: “We’re not ruling out anything.”

Johnson said it was the right time to return to Australia. He has been keeping a close eye on Super Rugby and Wallabies results over the past few years and wants to get rugby in this country back to what it was in the glory days.

“We have as much chance as anyone else [of winning the World Cup],” Johnson said. “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 it to be.

“We are pretty proud of what is on our coat of arms. We have two animals that don’t walk backwards. I quite like that, so with anything in a competitive sense, we won’t be walking backwards.

“Our goal is to get prominence here in the marketplace in this country and that’s what we’ll be striving to do.”

It will be an interesting dynamic on the selection panel but Johnson insisted neither he, Cheika or O’Connor would have a deciding vote on the make-up of teams.

“At the end of the day it will be vibrant and you’d like to think casting votes don’t come and that logic wins,” Johnson said. “You want [Cheika] to win his arguments because there is logic to it. It will be pretty dynamic and keep everyone honest.”

Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald

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