The All Blacks’ loss of Tony Brown as a potential coaching candidate has become the Highlanders’ gain.
The Japan assistant coach was considered one of a few frontrunners who were in contention to replace Steve Hansen as All Blacks head coach following New Zealand’s World Cup semi-final exit, alongside the likes of long-term coaching partner Jamie Joseph, Ian Foster, Scott Robertson, Dave Rennie and Warren Gatland.
His decision to join Joseph in re-committing himself to the Brave Blossoms through to the 2023 World Cup in France following their maiden appearance in the tournament’s quarter-finals last month, though, has ruled the pair out of the running to become Hansen’s successor, which is good news for the Highlanders.
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The Dunedin-based Super Rugby franchise signed Brown as an assistant coach to Aaron Mauger on a three-year deal in May, but murmurings of the 44-year-old’s potential involvement with the All Blacks sparked concerns that that could have confined his agreement with the Highlanders to just one season.
However, his contract extension with Japan means he is fully available to stay with the Highlanders – the club of which he played for 91 times over 10 seasons and coached in various roles between 2014 and 2017 – through until 2022.
“It is a massive coup for us. Everybody wants him – the All Blacks wanted him and now we have got him for the next three years,” Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark told the Otago Daily Times.
“It’s incredibly exciting for our fans.”
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Clark said the acquisition of Brown, who played in 18 tests for the All Blacks as a first-five between 1999 and 2001, would be a significant boost for the side’s young players given his renowned ability as an attack coach.
It is in that role where Brown will be utilised during his second coaching stint with the franchise, while he will also be in charge of the team’s game plan.
His dual roles with Japan and the Highlanders will make his coaching schedule a challenging one over the next three years, but Clark said it would be manageable thanks to the contrasting international rugby and Super Rugby calendars.
The revamped 2020 Super Rugby season will begin in January and conclude in June, while the test rugby windows are in July and November.
From 2021, when the competition reverts to a round-robin format following as a result of the expulsion of the Sunwolves, Super Rugby will start in mid-February and finish in June.
After having previously juggled coaching roles with the Sunwolves and Japan, Clark told the ODT that he was confident that Brown will be capable of carrying out his duties with both the Highlanders and the Brave Blossoms simultaneously.
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