Former All Black Mark Hammett confirmed as Japanese Sunwolves coach
Mark Hammett has been confirmed as coach of the Japanese Sunwolves, as the new Super Rugby franchise finally announced their squad on Monday.
Yoshitaka Tashiro, representative director of the Japan Super Rugby Association, made the announcement at a press conference in Tokyo after the former All Blacks hooker was strongly linked to the role over the past week.
The Sunwolves are set to join an expanded 18-team competition next year along with the Kings from South Africa and Argentina’s first franchise, but their delay in appointing a coach had caused much anxiety among the Sanzar partners with kick-off just two months away.
It means Hammett faces a huge task in getting the side ready for their opening match on February 27 against the Lions at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.
The Sunwolves unveiled their coach, squad and kit at a press conference in Tokyo.
At least he knows who he will be coaching after a list of 34 players was also announced at the press conference.
The squad features 10 of the players that took Japan to their best ever performance at the recent World Cup, including a shock upset over the Springboks, as well as former Blues lock Liaki Moli and ex-Hurricanes first-five Tusi Pisi.
Other notable players include Argentina loose forward Tomas Leonardi, Springboks tourist Riaan Viljoen and Australia under-20 flanker Eddie Quirk.
The Sunwolves also unveiled their kit for their inaugural campaign; a red/orange strip that represents the rising sun.
The alternative grey outfit, meanwhile, signifies the wolf that is emblazoned across both jerseys.
The Sunwolves have been included in one of the two South African conferences alongside the Bulls, Cheetahs and Stormers.
They do not play against any of the New Zealand teams in their opening season.
It will be Hammett’s second stint as a head a coach in the competition after leading the Hurricanes from 2011-14.
The 43-year-old vacated his position in charge of Welsh club Cardiff this year to return home for personal reasons.
He had recently been named assistant coach at the Tasman Makos for next year’s national provincial championship and is expected to continue that role once the Sunwolves’ season is over.
Hammett is the first of two Kiwis to take up high-profile roles in Japan this week.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph is reportedly set to be named as Eddie Jones’ replacement in charge of the national side in the coming days.