Former Australia coach Eddie Jones has been chosen to replace All Blacks legend John Kirwan as head coach of the Japan rugby team, media reports said Tuesday.
The Japan Rugby Football Union recommended Jones as the sole candidate for the job when it convened a special meeting on Monday to review the structure of the national team, the reports said.
“I haven’t got any comment to make at this stage. Unfortunately I can’t help you,” 51-year-old Jones, who has been managing Japan’s Top League side Suntory Sungoliath since 2009, told AFP.
No official was immediately available at the JRFU to comment.
The union is expected to negotiate with Jones’s current employer, Suntory, hoping to appoint him to the head coach’s position in April after the Top League season ends in late February.
Jones, who took the Wallabies to the 2003 World Cup final, which they lost to England, has emerged as Kirwan’s likely successor since Japan came home winless from the recent Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
He was technical adviser to South Africa when the Springboks won the 2007 World Cup in France.
Jones earlier said he would take the Brave Blossoms’ job if selected and if Suntory approved.
“If Japan came to me, I’d be very, very pleased as it’s a great honour,” he said on the eve of the Top League’s launch in late October.
Jones, whose mother is of Japanese ancestry and whose wife is Japanese, has cultivated contact with Japan over several years. He coached Japan’s Tokai University before serving as an assistant coach for the Blossoms in 1995-1996.
In 2010-2011, Suntory finished runners-up in the Top League and won the national championship under Jones. They are currently leading the Top League after seven straight wins.
Japan will host the World Cup in 2019 and will be looking to avoid the embarrassment of becoming the first host country to fail to make the knockout stages.
Kirwan failed to break the Brave Blossoms’ 20-year World Cup win drought at the New Zealand tournament. He has opted not to seek a new contract when his current five-year deal expires this month.