Joseph's Japan decision blow for NZR

Jamie Joseph.
Jamie Joseph.
Jamie Joseph will turn 50 tomorrow.

Blowing out that many candles usually brings some reflection, some thought and a look at what is ahead.

Joseph has obviously done plenty of that over the past month.

The former Highlanders boss has decided to throw his lot in with the Japanese for the next four years.

Getting a firm deal - and a lucrative one at that - and a likeness for Japan appear to have tipped Joseph into accepting the Japanese offer.

After the 2015 World Cup, Japan lost its coach, Eddie Jones, almost straight away and it was a year until Joseph started as his replacment.

Japan rugby bosses did not want to be caught out like that again. They wanted Joseph on board and sooner rather than later.

In an announcement which caught most pundits unaware, the Japan Rugby Football Union came out on Monday saying it had signed Joseph until the next World Cup in France in 2023.

Most thought the former All Black loose forward would pursue the All Black coaching job and wait and see how he went.

If he got the All Black gig, then great. It is the dream job for every coach of the 15-man game in New Zealand.

If he did not get it, then simply ring Japan and get another four years. But what has happened did not follow that scenario and Joseph has thrown his lot in with the Brave Blossoms before his application for the All Black coaching job even got out of first gear.

Joseph, who could not be contacted yesterday, is a man who walks to his own drum.

He played for an Otago team which did not always follow convention, going outside the square at times.

Japan simply put its cards on the table and its hand was eye-watering in many ways.

Lead a well-resourced team for some very good compensation, in total control of a coaching team, in a country with which you are familiar and can live a relatively simple and quiet life.

Or have a punt at the All Black job, which offers half the compensation, many of the top players cannot be picked and are not accessible, and oh, also, live in a bubble where everyone knows your every move.

Joseph has spent a good period of time in Japan. He was there for seven years at the back end of his playing career. When he was coaching the Highlanders he used to return to the country most years.

He can speak Japanese. He obviously likes the place. Plenty of people do.

And after performing so well at the World Cup, he had the power when negotiating a contract. Japanese rugby is corporate-based. Big, big corporates with very deep pockets. Toyota's annual revenue is significantly bigger than New Zealand's GDP.

The players liked him and, after being surrounded by them, the warmth must have rubbed off. Tony Brown is heading there too.

Joseph's decision to head to Japan was acknowledged by New Zealand Rugby yesterday.

Board chairman Brent Impey said Joseph went to Japan with his best wishes and the national body respected his decision and abilities.

But the reality is this move is a kick in the guts for NZR.

One of the best coaches in the land has turned down the chance to coach the national team and gone elsewhere - so has his running mate, the best attacking coach in the country.

No matter how it is painted, it is a loss for the national union.


Joseph’s coaching career


2000-01: Sanix Blues assistant coach

2002: Wellington B

2003-07: Wellington lineout and assistant coach

2006: NZ Maori assistant coach

2008-10: Wellington coach

2010-12: NZ Maori coach

2011-16: Highlanders coach

2016-19: Japan coach

2018: Sunwolves coach

2019: Signed new Japan deal



2008: Wellington tops table but loses final 7-6 to Canterbury, wins Ranfurly Shield

2009: Wellington makes provincial final, loses Ranfurly Shield

2011: Highlanders win first three games and side just misses playoffs

2014: Highlanders make playoffs

2015: Highlanders win title

2016: Highlanders lose semifinal

2017: Japan draws with France 23-23

2018: Sunwolves win a record three games

2019: Japan makes the quarterfinals of the World Cup

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