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Why Brown's back in NZ

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The reason why Sunwolves head coach Tony Brown is returning to New Zealand

Incoming Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown is looking to bolster his international coaching résumé after signing a new deal which will see him return to Dunedin for the next three years.

A former All Black, Highlander and Otago representative, who also played for the Sharks and Stormers in Super Rugby, Brown is returning to the franchise of which he made 83 appearances for between 1996 and 2004, and then again in a one-off return stint in 2011, in a yet-to-be-determined assistant coaching role.

It’s a position of which he’s familiar with, having joined the Highlanders as an assistant coach in 2013, before taking over from long-time head coach Jamie Joseph in 2017.

After leading the Highlanders to a quarter-final appearance that year, he followed Joseph to Japan as the national side’s assistant coach, while also working as the Sunwolves head coach for this year.

Despite an underwhelming campaign which could cost the Highlanders a play-offs spot for the first time since 2013, head coach Aaron Mauger will retain his position and see out the final season of his three-year contract with the Highlanders, meaning there is no chance of Brown re-claiming the head coach role he had two years ago.

However, the option to do exactly that will come at the end of the 2020 Super Rugby campaign, when Mauger’s deal comes to an end.

Brown could be the favourite to take the job, especially given his ambition to push for further honours within New Zealand rugby, as explained by Highlanders CEO Roger Clark to Stuff on Friday.

“There’s two things that are really important to him, apart from the Landers,” Clark said.

“His family are still based here [Dunedin] and want to stay here so obviously there’s that that draws him back.

“But I think at the bottom of it is one day he wants to coach the All Blacks.”

It’s a crowded field in the race for the All Blacks job, with Steve Hansen set to stand down from the position following this year’s World Cup in Japan after eight years at the helm.

Should the All Blacks win a third consecutive World Cup title, current assistant coach Ian Foster would be seen as the most likely candidate to succeed Hansen, but a raft of other options are also available if the All Blacks’ campaign goes up in flames.

Much has been made of Ireland and Crusaders head coaches Joe Schmidt and Scott Robertson, while the likes of outgoing Wales and Glasgow bosses Warren Gatland and Dave Rennie have also been given outside chances to take the All Blacks head coach reigns.

During their time with Japan and the Sunwolves, Joseph and Brown have almost become the forgotten men in the race for the All Blacks coaching position, but with international coaching experience already behind him, Clark backs his returning employee to challenge for the pinnacle coaching job in New Zealand.

“He’s a young man and young coach and there’s plenty of time for that,” he said.

“He really enjoyed his time at international level [with Japan] and still wants to coach at an international level.

“That opportunity will come and his goal like every New Zealand coach and player is to one day be good enough and get the privilege of being able to coach the All Blacks.

“So, this is just part of the journey for him.”

Tony Brown returns to Highlanders:

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The reason why Sunwolves head coach Tony Brown is returning to New Zealand