Rugby: Japan's Sunwolves unveils team line-up ahead of 2016 Super Rugby season

Newly appointed Sunwolves coach Mark Hammett (second right) posing with players (from left) Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Yuki Yatomo and Edward Quirk, in Tokyo on Dec 21, 2015.
Newly appointed Sunwolves coach Mark Hammett (second right) posing with players (from left) Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Yuki Yatomo and Edward Quirk, in Tokyo on Dec 21, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Former All Black hooker Mark Hammett was on Monday officially confirmed as the inaugural coach of Japan's new Super Rugby team the Sunwolves.

The 43-year-old earned 29 caps for New Zealand from 1999 until 2003 before a neck injury forced him into retirement and had four seasons in charge at the Wellington Hurricanes.

At the press conference in Tokyo, the Tokyo and Singapore-based team's 34-man squad for their first season was also unveiled.

The Sunwolves begin their campaign against South Africa's Lions in Tokyo on Feb 27 before making their Singapore debut on March 12 against South Africa's Cheetahs at the National Stadium.

The first Asian Super Rugby side contains 15 players with Test experience and 10 of the Japan squad that stunned the rugby world by beating South Africa at the recent World Cup and went on to win three games.

As well as a majority of players based at Japanese clubs, the playing group featured Argentina loose forward Tomas Leonardi, Springboks tourist Riaan Viljoen and former Queensland Reds flanker Eddie Quirk.

The Sunwolves will join an expanded 18-team Super Rugby competition with Argentina's Jaguares and South Africa's Kings also joining.

The team will wear a red/orange primary strip that represents Japan, the land of the rising sun while the grey alternate signifies the speed and fighting spirit of the wolf that is across both jerseys.