The Sunwolves on Thursday named attack coach Tony Brown as their head coach for the 2019 Super Rugby season.

The 43-year-old former All Black replaces compatriot Jamie Joseph, who has stepped aside to focus on leading the Japan national team to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Brown, who is also an assistant coach for Japan, led the Sunwolves for the last three games of this past season after Joseph returned to New Zealand to undergo treatment for back pain.

In a statement from the club, Brown said the Sunwolves would continue working toward their goal of competing with the top Super Rugby sides. The team finished the 2018 season at the bottom of the competition's Australian Conference with three wins and 13 losses.

"It is a great honor to be involved in the Sunwolves coaching team again. As a team and club we felt we made significant improvements both on and off the field in 2018," said Brown, who will be aided by assistant coach Scott Hansen.

"Keeping continuity and building on 2018 is the most important thing for us in 2019. Taking over as head coach allows Scott, myself and our management team to take the Sunwolves forward and into a position to challenge the best teams in the competition."

Japan Super Rugby Association CEO Yuji Watase said Hansen will lead the team as acting head coach when Brown is periodically called away to help with World Cup preparations.

As host nation, Japan is aiming to reach the knockout stage for the first time at next year's Rugby World Cup, the first time the tournament will be held in Asia.