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18:48 1 February 2016

Rugby: JRFU fails to name interim coach for Scotland tests

By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, Feb. 1, Kyodo

The Japan Rugby Football Union's ongoing problems to appoint coaches in a timely manner continued Monday with the announcement that the union had still not decided on an interim coach for the national team or a coach for Junior Japan.

Jamie Joseph was named the new head coach of the Brave Blossoms on Jan. 21, but the former New Zealand and Japan international made it very clear in a press conference in Dunedin that day that he would only take up the role once his commitments with the Highlanders finish in August.

That means the national side will be without their new coach when they host Scotland for a two-test series on June 18 and 25.

There was also no announcement as to which Japan side will play in the Asian Rugby Championship -- slated for April 30 to June 4.

It had been suggested that a Junior Japan side containing members of the Under 20s and some overage players would take part, given that a number of the Brave Blossoms will be involved in Super Rugby at that time.

But new Director of Rugby Masahiro Kunda was unable to confirm that or the name of the coach of the nation's development side at a press conference Monday at JRFU headquarters.

"We're still going through the process of picking staff," said the former Toshiba and Japan hooker.

Kunda said that with the Sunwolves playing 15 games in the Super Rugby tournament and a test in November in Wales confirmed (in addition to the two against the Scots), Japanese players would be playing 18 top-class games.

However, there was no confirmation of any other fixtures for the national team in either the June or November test windows.

Joseph -- who flew with the Super Rugby champions to Hong Kong on Monday for Saturday's Natixis Cup game with Paris club Racing 92 -- told Kyodo last week that he hadn't, as yet, given much thought to the make-up of his staff.

A source at the Highlanders said Monday that Scott McLeod -- who played under Kunda at Toshiba -- and former Sanyo/Panasonic favorite Tony Brown had held brief discussions with Joseph about returning to Japan with their current boss, but it was too early in the process for any decisions to be made.

Sunwolves coach Mark Hammett, who was only appointed on Dec. 21, had been rumored to be the new interim coach.

But when asked if that was a possibility of Hammett doubling up, Masato Tsuchida, a member of the strengthening committee of the JRFU and coach of Suntory when they beat Wales in 2001, simply said. "That's a good question and one I cannot answer."




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