New coach has high hopes for Sunwolves

TOKYO • Ex-All Black Tony Brown wants the Sunwolves to be able to challenge the top teams in Super Rugby, after his appointment as the new coach of the Japanese side.

He replaces Jamie Joseph, who relinquished his dual role to focus on the Japan national team ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup on home soil.

The Sunwolves, which have played some of their homes ties at the National Stadium in Singapore, improved under Joseph last season - their third in Super Rugby - with three victories including a 63-28 thrashing of Australia's Queensland Reds, but they still finished bottom of the table.

"It is a great honour 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.

"Keeping continuity and building on 2018 is the most important thing for us in 2019."

A former fly-half with 18 international caps, he is the fourth New Zealander to coach the Sunwolves after Mark Hammett in 2016, Filo Tiatia in 2017 and Joseph last year.

He is used to replacing Joseph, taking over at the Otago Highlanders last year and leading the former champions to the last eight.

Brown, 43, was his assistant and led the Sunwolves for the last three games of the 2018 season after his fellow Kiwi returned home to undergo treatment for back pain.

Joseph, meanwhile, has tipped Japan to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, after a strong summer of home Tests during which the Brave Blossoms beat Georgia 28-0 and split a two-match series with Italy.

"In a World Cup year, my core responsibility is to prepare the national team, especially since Japan is hosting the tournament," said Joseph in a statement.

"Tony being at the helm as head coach will allow us to continue the hard work we invested last season, as well as prepare any players also in the national team for the World Cup. It is going to be a great year."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2018, with the headline 'New coach has high hopes for Sunwolves'. Print Edition | Subscribe