Super 18

Super Rugby 2016

Thrown to the wolves? Former All Black Filo Tiatia named coach of Japan’s Super Rugby side

45-year-old selected for a role that outgoing Fiji coach Ben Ryan had also been linked to, with old mentor Mark Hammett returning to New Zealand

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 September, 2016, 7:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2016, 5:48am

Former All Black Filo Tiatia will take over from countryman Mark Hammett as head coach of Japan’s Sunwolves Super Rugby side, league officials said on Monday.

The 45-year-old, who acted as assistant to Hammett in the Tokyo franchise’s inaugural season, is set to ink a two-year deal.

Tiatia, who has also played and coached at Japan Top League side Toyota Verblitz, is expected to be formally unveiled by the Sunwolves later this week.

Englishman Ben Ryan, who led Fiji to gold at the Rio Olympics last month, had also been linked to the job.

Hammett, who endured a troubled first season with the Sunwolves, will return to New Zealand at the end of the season to take up a role as assistant coach of the Otago Highlanders.

As predicted, the Sunwolves have struggled in the southern hemisphere’s elite club competition, slumping to a record of one win, one draw and 13 defeats.

They hit rock bottom in a 92-17 humiliation by South Africa’s Cheetahs in April, prompting criticism from former Japan coach Eddie Jones, among others.

The Sunwolves joined the competition following Japan’s astonishing performance at last year’s World Cup where the Brave Blossoms won three pool games, including a 34-32 shock upset over two-time champions South Africa.

But delays bringing in players and coaching staff sabotaged the team’s preparations while Jones, now in charge of England, slammed the Tokyo outfit’s lack of depth as “embarrassing”.