Rugby

Jamie Joseph to stay with Japan through 2023 Rugby World Cup

AFP-JIJI

Jamie Joseph said Monday he will stay on as head coach of Japan through the next Rugby World Cup in 2023, a decision that rules him out of the vacant All Blacks coaching role.

“I have great expectations for rugby in Japan and I’m very honored that I can lead the team towards the next World Cup,” Joseph, who led Japan to its first-ever Rugby World Cup quarterfinal last month, said in a statement.

He had been among 26 New Zealanders invited by the All Blacks to submit an application to replace Steve Hansen, who stepped down at the end of the World Cup in Japan earlier this month.

The former All Blacks player oversaw a campaign by Japan that exceeded all expectations and lit up the tournament — the first World Cup held in Asia and outside the traditional rugby heartlands.

Japan beat Ireland 19-12 and Scotland 28-21 to top its pool and lift its world ranking to an all-time high of sixth.

The Brave Blossoms eventually lost in the quarterfinals against South Africa, the tournament’s eventual winner.

But Japan’s performances captured the hearts of fans across the nation and raised the profile of rugby in a baseball-mad country.

Japan Rugby Football Union President Shigetaka Mori said the association hoped to see Joseph take the team even further in the future.

“I hope he will make the team stronger in the next four years. I look very much forward to seeing how strong the Japan team will be under the leadership of Mr. Joseph,” Mori said.

“We highly value his capability, which took the Japan team to the world’s top level in just three years.”

Joseph said he was proud of having led the Brave Blossoms to their best World Cup showing, but warned “we have many more issues to tackle if we look ahead to the future.”

“That’s why I decided to choose the path of taking on a challenge again with the Japan team. I hope to make the team even stronger.”

As a player, Joseph was a versatile forward who played 20 tests for the All Blacks, mainly at lock but also at flanker.

He made his debut in 1992 and was a member of the New Zealand squad that lost the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final to South Africa in Johannesburg.

He subsequently left New Zealand for a playing career in Japan that eventually saw him represent the Brave Blossoms in 10 tests, including at the 1999 World Cup.

Joseph returned to New Zealand to begin his coaching career, taking charge of the Maori All Blacks and the Otago Highlanders in Super Rugby.

He returned to Japan in 2016 to coach the national team, initially with a contract through the end of the 2019 World Cup.