Joseph to take Japan to next Rugby World Cup, ruling out All Blacks role

TOKYO (AFP) – Jamie Joseph said yesterday he will stay on as head coach of Japan through the next Rugby World Cup in 2023, a decision that rules him out of the vacant All Blacks coaching role.

Joseph, who led Japan to their first World Cup quarter-final last month, said in a statement, “I have great expectations for rugby in Japan and I’m very honoured that I can lead the team towards the next World Cup.”

Joseph was among 26 New Zealanders invited by the All Blacks to replace Steve Hansen, who stepped down at the end of the World Cup this month.

The former All Black oversaw a campaign by Japan that exceeded all expectations and lit up the tournament – the first World Cup held in Asia and outside the traditional rugby heartlands.

Japan beat Ireland 19-12 and Scotland 28-21 to top their pool and lift their world ranking to an all-time high of sixth.

They eventually lost in the quarter-finals against South Africa, the tournament’s eventual winners.

But the Brave Blossoms’ performances captured the hearts of fans across the nation and raised the profile of rugby in a baseball-mad country.

Japan Rugby Football Union (RFU) President Shigetaka Mori said the association hoped to see Joseph take the team even further.

“I hope he will make the team stronger in the next four years. I look very much forward to seeing how strong the Japan team will be under the leadership of Mr Joseph,” Mori said. “We highly value his capability, which took the Japan team to the world’s top level in just three years.”

Joseph said he was proud of having led the Blossoms to their best World Cup showing, but warned “we have many more issues to tackle if we look ahead to the future”.

“That’s why I decided to choose the path of taking on a challenge again with the Japan team. I hope to make the team even stronger.”

As a player, the versatile forward Joseph played 20 Tests for the All Blacks, mainly at lock but also at flanker.

He made his debut in 1992 and was a member of the New Zealand squad that lost the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final to South Africa in Johannesburg.