Japan coach Joseph quits Sunwolves to focus on World Cup

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph revealed he would step down as Sunwolves coach after combining both roles last season.

FILE: Japan's rugby head coach Jamie Joseph smiles as he answers questions during a press conference in Tokyo on 27 June 2018. Picture: AFP

TOKYO - Japan head coach Jamie Joseph is set to relinquish control of Super Rugby's Sunwolves to concentrate on the host team's run-in to the 2019 World Cup.

As events took place across Japan on Thursday to mark a year to go before the "Brave Blossoms" face Russia in the tournament's opening game, Joseph revealed he would step down as Sunwolves coach after combining both roles last season.

The New Zealander will, however, preserve close ties between the Tokyo-based side and the national team.

"I won't be coaching the Sunwolves next year, but I will be involved in appointing the coaches," the former All Black told local media.

"Next year we need to be peaking in September, certainly not February when the Super Rugby competition starts," added Joseph.

"You can expect a number of our players will not be participating at the start of the Super Rugby competition with the Sunwolves, but they will start a bit later in the season."

Joseph's decision means the Sunwolves will appoint a fourth head coach in their fourth season since joining Super Rugby.

Assistant coach Tony Brown has been tipped to take over, which would mirror his promotion to the Highlanders job in 2017 after Joseph's departure.

Joseph took over the Sunwolves role after the team had endured a torrid first two seasons in Super Rugby, posting just three wins.

He led them to three victories this year, but the team still finished with the wooden spoon despite signs of improvement.

"That's why Super Rugby is good for our players," insisted Joseph.

"It's a really intensive competition. If we can get used to that in another year's time we will put ourselves in a really good position."