CHIBA – Japan is set to name two New Zealand coaches this week as it looks to build on the ground-breaking performance of the Brave Blossoms at Rugby World Cup 2015.
Mark Hammett will be unveiled Monday as head coach of the Sunwolves, Japan’s new Super Rugby side, while reports from New Zealand say Jamie Joseph has agreed to terms with the Japan Rugby Football Union and will be confirmed as Brave Blossoms head coach later this week.
A source told Kyodo News former All Blacks hooker Hammett is already in Japan ahead of Monday’s press conference at which the Sunwolves’ squad will finally be unveiled.
It is understood that the 43-year-old and the Japan Super Rugby Association have reached an agreement whereby Hammett can return at the end of the regular Super Rugby season to fulfill his commitments as assistant coach with Tasman Makos.
What will happen if the Sunwolves were to defy all expectations and make the playoffs has not apparently come into the equation.
Joseph — who played for New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup and for Japan in 1999 — has also had to come to an arrangement with the JRFU as he is under contract with the Highlanders until August.
With Japan likely to field an Under 20s side in the Asian Rugby Championship, the Brave Blossoms’ first test will be on June 18 against Scotland.
But Super Rugby is on a midseason break then and Joseph would be able to take charge for the two-test series before fulfilling his obligations with the reigning Super Rugby champions.
“They are both good qualified men and it would be a great outcome for Japan if they get them,” said Panasonic Wild Knights head coach Robbie Deans, who coached Hammett at the Crusaders.
“Mark was part of the original Crusaders team and really understands the meaning of being in a team and how to work with a team. He will also know as a player and coach how to deal with the type of itinerary the Sunwolves have.”
Japan scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka has played for Joseph at the Highlanders for the last three years and said he “was the best person to be head coach” of the national team.
“It will be a real positive for Japan, Tanaka said. “He really understands Japanese and overseas culture. Mentally he is very strong and while you can have fun talking to him, he also comes across as the real boss just like Eddie Jones did.”
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