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December 6, 2016 14:46

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18:38 20 January 2016

Rugby: Highlanders expected to announce Joseph's move to Japan

By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, Jan. 20, Kyodo

The long and winding road to name a successor to Eddie Jones as head coach of the Brave Blossoms looks like it is finally coming to an end.

The Otago Daily Times told Kyodo News on Wednesday that Super Rugby champions the Highlanders have called a press conference for Thursday afternoon (around 9.30 a.m. Japan time) as which CEO Roger Clark is expected to announce that former New Zealand and Japan international Jamie Joseph will leave the franchise at the end of the season to take on the Japan job.

Joseph, who played for Sanix Blues from 1995 to 2000 and has been the Highlanders coach since 2011, has been the Japan Rugby Football Union's No. 1 choice to replace Jones since the beginning of December.

However, the two parties have struggled to agree on financial terms, with Joseph contracted to the Highlanders until August, and with the 46-year-old perhaps still eying the All Blacks job, which becomes vacant in 2017.

Wednesday's news would seem to imply an agreement has been made that would allow Joseph, who played 20 tests for the All Blacks and nine for Japan, to see out his time with the Highlanders before taking on his new role.

A break in the Super Rugby season would also allow Joseph to coach the Brave Blossoms against Scotland on June 18 and 25, though quite how he would have any input on the team picked is unclear.

Kyodo News has learned a foreigner will be in charge of the national team when it goes into camp, but no announcement has been made as to who.

There is also no word on whether Joseph's current assistants -- former Panasonic Wild Knights flyhalf Tony Brown and ex-Toshiba Brave Lupus center Scott McLeod -- would also be heading back to Japan.

When asked by Kyodo News to comment on the news surrounding Joseph and his assistants, Sunwolves head coach Mark Hammett said, "I haven't heard anything."

There was also no confirmation from the JRFU as to when they will make officially name the Brave Blossoms head coach, who it is hoped will lead the side through 2019, when Japan hosts the Rugby World Cup.

Earlier in the week, a JRFU spokesman said he expected an announcement to be made at the end of the month or the beginning of February, but Wednesday's news could see the news made official on Thursday when the JRFU holds a board meeting.

==Kyodo

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