Rugby: Japan coach Joseph to also lead Sunwolves

Sunwolves' Kaito Shigeno runs with the ball during the Super Rugby match against South Africa's Stormers at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on July 8, 2017.
Sunwolves' Kaito Shigeno runs with the ball during the Super Rugby match against South Africa's Stormers at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on July 8, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan coach Jamie Joseph will also take over the country's Super Rugby team the Sunwolves from next season, the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) said on Friday (Sept 29).

The former All Blacks loose forward, who took the helm of the Japan national side in 2016, will replace Filo Tiatia in the Sunwolves role.

"As the new head coach I understand the responsibility of coaching at this level," Joseph said in a JRFU statement.

"I can't wait for next season. We have a huge challenge ahead of us but I've been here before with the Highlanders."

The Sunwolves' performances in Super Rugby since they joined the competition in 2016 have been poor, and the former Otago Highlanders' boss will be their third head coach in as many seasons.

Former Wellington Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett led them in their inaugural season, while Tiatia took over in 2017.

The side have won just three games in two seasons and were in danger of conceding the first 100-point defeat in Super Rugby twice in 2017.

Despite their poor performances, the side survived a Sanzaar cull of the competition, with three teams being dropped from next season.

Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos, however, sent the Sunwolves, Argentina's Jaguares and the Melbourne Rebels, a stern warning earlier this month they needed to pick up their performances both on and off the field from next year.

The Sunwolves, who are co-based in Singapore, also had their governance moved away from the JRFU and into an independent body the Japan Super Rugby Association (JSRA) that will work more closely with Sanzaar.

The decision to appoint Joseph came from a review of the Sunwolves, the JRFU said.

"In recent weeks following this restructure JSRA has made considerable changes to the organisation to comply with the conditions of participation in the tournament," the statement said.

"They have the aim of strengthening the Sunwolves' participation in Super Rugby."