Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has quashed any hope of a potential move back to the Highlanders in the wake of Aaron Mauger’s departure from the franchise.
It was announced on Thursday that the Highlanders would not be renewing Mauger’s contract, bringing the curtain down on his three-year tenure in Dunedin.
The decision to let the former All Blacks midfielder go was met with hope among the Highlanders faithful that the franchise’s former coach Joseph could make a remarkable return to Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Joseph has cult hero status in Dunedin after guiding the Highlanders to their first-ever Super Rugby title in 2015 during his six-season spell with the club, but the Brave Blossoms boss has ruled out the possibility of returning as Mauger’s replacement.
Speaking to the Otago Daily Times, Joseph revealed he wouldn’t be able act as head coach of both the Japanese national side, the team he is contracted to the 2023 World Cup with, and the Highlanders at the same time.
He did, however, express sympathy for Mauger, a sentiment that was echoed by Highlanders co-captain Ash Dixon on Friday.
“It’s pretty sad news,” North Island hooker Dixon said ahead of this weekend’s North vs South clash in Wellington.
“I flicked Azza [Mauger] a message last night just to express my thanks for what he’s done for me and our club. I guess it’s a pretty fickle business, isn’t it?
“He’s a good man and I’m sure we’ll cross paths again some other time.”
Joseph’s comments come a day after former Highlanders and All Blacks coach Laurie Mains said the 50-year-old would be a great fit for his former side.
“I just wonder with Japan really winding back their activities in rugby, I just wonder if Jamie Joseph might be on the radar, given that him and Tony Brown have proved to be a formidable combination,” Mains said.
Since leaving the Highlanders for Japan in 2016, Joseph has enjoyed plenty of successes, including a draw against France in 2017 and wins over Scotland and Ireland to see them through to a maiden World Cup quarter-final appearance last year.
He has been helped by long-time assistant coach Tony Brown, who had been juggling his role as Japan assistant with his position as Highlanders assistant to Mauger.
As a former Highlanders head coach in 2017, Brown is the leading candidate to succeed Mauger for the Highlanders’ top job.
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