Fans expect Wallabies to at least make final - Castle

Sydney (AFP) –


Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle admits that expectations are high for the Wallabies at the World Cup and anything short of making the final would be considered a failure.

Michael Cheika's men were runners-up to the All Blacks at the last tournament in 2015 and their victory over New Zealand in Perth last month has raised hopes they can go one better in Japan.

Despite New Zealand turning the tables to beat Australia in emphatic fashion a week later in Auckland, Castle said she was confident the Wallabies could at least match their feat from four years ago.

"When your previous performance was a World Cup final, that is everyone's expectation," she told the Sydney Morning Herald in comments published Thursday, despite mixed fortunes for the Wallabies so far this year, who have won three and lost two.

"We know that and we know fans want to see the Wallabies turn up in the final.

"I know the team want that and the team want to go one better," she added.

"Certainly that is the internal expectation of the team and that is what they have been working towards and building towards for the last four years."

The Wallabies, who won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999, get their campaign underway in Sapporo on Saturday against Fiji before pool games against Wales, Uruguay and Georgia.

After a horror year in 2018, when they won just four of 13 Tests, slumping to sixth in the world, doing well in Japan is seen as critical to win back support for the sport in Australia.

Rugby union endures an endless battle for attention with rugby league and Australian Rules, and has been overshadowed this year by superstar Israel Folau's controversial sacking for homophobic comments and his looming legal battle with Rugby Australia.

He is seeking Aus$10 million (US$6.8 million) for unfair dismissal -- a major potential headache for Rugby Australia, which has warned of a financial loss in 2019.

Castle acknowledged that a deep run was important, and that the Wallabies must build on any momentum in the years ahead.

"The people that watch golf majors and tennis majors and football World Cups, they watch the Rugby World Cup," she said.

"That means our viewing audiences and our fans and sports fans across Australia get to know the Wallabies, get to know the coaching staff, get to know the back stories, that's a really great opportunity for us.

"What we need is consistent Wallabies performances and the team winning consistently. I know that is something everyone in the organisation is working towards," she added.