Sunwolves decision will pose challenges: Joseph

Japan coach Jamie Joseph laughs during a press conference at the North Ground yesterday. Photo:...
Japan coach Jamie Joseph laughs during a press conference at the North Ground yesterday. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Japan coach Jamie Joseph is concerned the decision to axe the Sunwolves from Super Rugby will be a setback for the national team.

The former Highlanders coach is back home in Dunedin for a two-week stint and has brought the Japan A squad over for a match against the Bravehearts at Forsyth Barr Stadium tomorrow evening.

It is the curtain-raiser for the Highlanders-Hurricanes fixture and part of the Cherry Blossoms' preparation for the World Cup later this year.

The tournament is being staged in Japan and Joseph's goal is to steer the home team through the round-robin phase and into its first quarterfinal.

He has not given much thought to what he will do after that.

''I really want to see how it goes. I have some good opportunities to go back to Japan but that has been tough given the family is based in Dunedin,'' he said.

''The World Cup has been at the front of my mind and I think if the team does well then things will look after themselves.''

However, Joseph felt coaching the national team would be more of a challenge in the future. The Sunwolves have been cut from Super Rugby from 2021 and that will sever a crucial pathway.

''For Japanese rugby it basically means we are going to have to rely on the Top League to develop our players.

''The second question is, is that going to be good enough. Well, in the past it hasn't been which is why we got involved in Super Rugby.

''It will be interesting what other types of rugby or competitions the Japanese rugby union get involved with. I'm not sure what that looks like at the moment,'' he said.

The Japan A side will have plenty of players on show tomorrow who will be in the frame for selection when Joseph eventually names his World Cup squad.

There will also be a familiar face. Otago and Sunwolves lock Tom Rowe has been called into the Japan A squad as concussion cover.

Joseph is not putting too much pressure on his side.

''We just want to get some runs on the board and some footy under our belt,'' the former All Black said.

He has a ''green but skilful midfield'' and a promising combination at halfback and first five-eighth.

There is some experience up front and in the loose forward mix.

''About half these guys will probably be at the World Cup. But we're just a bit rusty because we haven't played.''

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