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13:03 29 January 2016

Rugby: New Japan coach Joseph to have no say on interim coach

By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, Jan. 29, Kyodo

New Japan coach Jamie Joseph said Friday he will have no input as to who will coach the Brave Blossoms on an interim basis before he takes on the job full time later in the year.

Speaking in a conference call arranged by the Hong Kong organizers of the Natixis Rugby Cup -- which pits Joseph's Highlanders against France's Racing Metro on Feb. 6 at Siu Sai Wan Stadium -- Joseph said he was contracted with the Super Rugby champions through to the end of the Southern Hemisphere season and would be giving them his full efforts.

"The opportunity (with Japan) starts in September. I've really not given it a lot of thought as to what I will do with the Japan national team as I have a job at the moment and I really want to go out on a positive note," he said.

Japan hosts Scotland for a two-test series in June and the Japan Rugby Football Union are set to name an interim coach on Feb. 1.

Joseph -- who played for New Zealand at the 1995 Rugby World Cup and for Japan four years later -- also said he hadn't given much thought as to who will make up his backroom staff in Japan.

It has long been suggested that his current assistants -- Tony Brown, who played for Sanyo (now Panasonic) Wild Knights from 2005-2011 and Scott McLeod (Toshiba Brave Lupus 2002-2008) -- could be part of a "dream team" package for the Brave Blossoms, and a report in a local paper Friday suggested a deal was close to being finalized.

However, a source at the Highlanders said the pair, like Joseph, were concentrating on defending their title in the upcoming Super Rugby campaign and at this stage did not wish to be distracted from that.

Joseph, however, could confirm that the Panasonic pair of Hayden Parker and Fumiaki Tanaka were set to join up with the Highlanders squad in Hong Kong next week following Sunday's All-Japan Championship game with Teikyo University.

When asked about Tanaka's physical condition -- given he has played rugby non-stop for almost four years -- Joseph said he was "a little bit worried, but we will qualify where he is physically and mentally and then as always we will slow down or speed up a program to suit the individual's needs."

Joseph said that his role at the Highlanders meant he had not had much opportunity to look at Japan's new Super Rugby side the Sunwolves, whose preparations for entering the tournament have been plagued with problems.

"What I can say about the Super Rugby competition is that on the day anyone can win. You see it time and time again and that's simply because of the amount of travel. Anyone can win on a given day and no doubt the Sunwolves will be one of those teams."

Joseph said having players like Tanaka, Ayumu Goromaru and Michael Leitch playing for overseas Super Rugby teams and the introduction of the Sunwolves was a great thing for Japanese rugby.

"Young players can get exposed to bigger rugby more often," he said. "They take that experience back to Japanese rugby. That's one of the reasons Japanese rugby has improved."

==Kyodo

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