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22:36 21 January 2016

Rugby: JRFU confirm Joseph appointment; will need interim coach

By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, Jan. 21, Kyodo

The Japan Rugby Football Union confirmed Thursday that Jamie Joseph would be the new head coach of the Brave Blossoms.

"(Joseph) is a person we can entrust (the team with) for the Rugby World Cup in 2019. He has a worldwide network and knows what the situation is in Japan. We selected him because he meets those conditions," JRFU executive director Noriyuki Sakamoto said.

But with Joseph not leaving the Highlanders until August, the Brave Blossoms will need an interim coach for the two-test series with Scotland in June and the Asian Rugby Championship -- if they decide to play the full national team and not the Under-20s in the regional competition.

"I didn't know that was the case," said Brave Blossoms captain Michael Leitch when told by Kyodo News that Joseph had said he was committed to the Highlanders through to the end of the Super Rugby season.

Kyodo News has learned a foreigner will be in charge of the national team when it goes into camp ahead of the Scotland tests, but an announcement will not be made until Feb. 1, when the JRFU hold a press conference on the future of the national team.

One source said there was no truth to the rumor that Panasonic Wild Knights coach Robbie Deans would take charge, while another suggested Carlos Spencer could be an option.

The former All Blacks flyhalf is currently working as a spot coach with Munakata Sanix Blues -- Joseph's old club -- and is in Japan helping the Top West champions in their quest to win promotion back to the Top League.

With the Brave Blossoms on a high following their performance at last year's Rugby World Cup, Leitch said it was important the interim coach and Joseph built on the last four years' work.

"We wanted to form a legacy after 2011 that will keep on going till 2040," Leitch said. "We have built a winning culture and don't want things to change in that respect."

"The way Jamie coaches will obviously be different but as long as we have the same motivation and goals then the transition will be smooth."

Leitch said the fact that Joseph had spent a number of years playing in Japan and had played for the Brave Blossoms at the 1999 World Cup will hold him in good stead.

"The 1999 results weren't so flash," he joked. "But we have now proven we are a team that can play at the highest level."

"Jamie has played here and lived here and knows how the Japanese think and play and that's a really good thing."

"He also spent a week with us (the Japan squad in 2014) so he knows how hard we work and how the leadership group works."

One further element that would help the transition would be the continued presence of scrum guru Marc Dal Maso, who helped turn the Japan pack into one of the most feared set-piece teams in the world.

The Frenchman, who recently announced he was suffering from Parkinson's disease, is currently in New Zealand helping Joseph and the Highlanders prepare for the upcoming Super Rugby season.

As yet, though, there is no word on who Joseph will appoint as his assistants in Japan.




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