New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie says it will take plenty of hard work for Australia to climb back up the world rankings, but believes top spot is ultimately attainable.
New Zealand have held top spot for most of the last decade, but Ireland, Wales and now recently-crowned world champions South Africa have all had a turn over the last few months.
The Wallabies have been one of the closest challengers to the All Blacks for most of the last few years, but briefly slid down to their equal lowest ever ranking of seventh, following their quarter-final loss to England at last year’s World Cup.
They now sit sixth, one place below Ireland, who they host in a two-Test series in July in Rennie’s first matches in charge.
“I think no-one thinks six is acceptable,” Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle said.
“Everyone believes that we’re a team and a country that is proud, that’s got success that is being used to being in the top three in the world, so I know that will be the aspiration for Dave.”
Rennie wouldn’t be drawn on his rankings aspirations but believed “absolutely” Australia could eventually emulate the feat of their next opponent and get to the top.
He said Australia possessed plenty of talent and he wanted to accelerate the development of the emerging talent, but stressed moving up the rankings wouldn’t be easy.
“There’s a feeling down in the southern hemisphere that all the best rugby is played down here,” Rennie said.
“There’s some very good sides in the northern hemisphere and you saw how good England were in the World Cup.
“There’s a lot of hard work needs to be done for us to get back into a position that we should be.”
Rennie said he hadn’t really thought about who his captain would be and when he would make that decision.
He met with incumbent Michael Hooper on Wednesday, the same day the openside flanker announced he was relinquishing the NSW Waratahs captaincy but suggested he would like to keep the Wallabies’ role.
“He’s a good man, he’s got a massive work ethic, he’ll be desperate to make the Wallabies side and so I guess his job is to show us that in Super Rugby,” Rennie said.
Rennie is the second New Zealender to hold the Wallabies coaching job, behind Robbie Deans, who he knows well.
“I’m well aware of the back story and the challenges he faced,” Rennie said.
“I was conscious of that, obviously a Kiwi coming in and the potential backlash around that, but overall I think it’s been pretty supportive.
“I think a lot of people acknowledged that there was no (Australian) heir apparent that was available.
“Hopefully the next head coach here is an Australian, so I’ve got a role to play in that.”