You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Jamie Joseph has re-signed as head coach of Japan, inking a deal to stay with the Brave Blossoms until the end of 2023.
The Japanese rugby union announced the news this afternoon, leaving the All Blacks coaching race shaping up as a showdown between Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and Steve Hansen's assistant, Ian Foster.
Joseph lead Japan to their first Rugby World Cup quarter-final earlier this year, including a famous victory over Ireland, after which Japan temporarily reached an all-time high of sixth on the world rankings.
The former Highlanders coach was seen as one of the favourites for the All Blacks job, being one of 26 coaches invited to apply for the job. His resume seemingly strengthened when his highly sought-after assistant with Japan, Tony Brown, turned down approaches from both Foster and Robertson to join their respective coaching teams, in order to stick with Joseph.
"It just didn't feel right to be the guy who's floating around between three different coaches to potentially get the job. It felt right to stick with Jamie and what we've been doing for the last eight years," he told The Breakdown.
Robertson admitted the news was a blow as he tries to assemble a coaching staff capable of earning the top job.
"We had planned for a while to work together. He showed his hand to work with Jamie - and his loyalty. I appreciate it was a tough call for him to make to me."
Now, Brown will be sticking with Japan, while Joseph's decision seemingly leaves Foster and Robertson as the two contenders left standing.
It had been widely accepted that former Chiefs coach Dave Rennie was also a strong favourite, but leading rugby broadcaster Scotty Stevenson indicated earlier this week that he was out of the race, with the former Chiefs coach tipped as the favourite to take over the vacant Wallabies job.