Hammett to leave Sunwolves

by AFP

Japan's Super Rugby franchise the Sunwolves formally announced Monday that coach Mark Hammett will leave the Tokyo-based club at the end of the season.

The 43-year-old, who has endured a troubled first season with the Sunwolves in the southern hemisphere's premier club competition, will return to New Zealand to take up a role as assistant coach of the Otago Highlanders.

Hammett's appointment by the Sunwolves was one of several to be made alarmingly late, giving the side very little time to prepare for the 2016 campaign.

As widely predicted, the Sunwolves have struggled badly, compiling a record of one win, one draw and 10 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 Tokyo-based side joined the competition on the back of Japan's astonishing performance at the 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 lack of depth in the Sunwolves squad as "embarrassing".

Hammett, a former All Blacks hooker, served as interim coach for Japan's recent Test victory over Canada and a pair of defeats by touring Scotland, the only team to beat them at the World Cup.

Jamie Joseph, currently in charge of the Highlanders, will take charge of Japan's "Brave Blossoms" at the end of the Super Rugby season.

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