Things are slowly beginning to take shape for the Sunwolves ahead of their maiden season in the Super Rugby competition. The Japanese franchise’s issues have been well publicised in recent weeks with serious question marks posed by fans and experts as to whether the Sunwolves would be ready on 27 February when they host the Lions at Tokyo’s Chichibunomiya Stadium.
Fans’ minds have been put at ease to some extent after it was revealed on Monday former All Blacks Nathan Mauger and Filo Tiatia would be joining the Sunwolves’ coaching team alongside head coach Mark Hammett.
44-year-old Tiatia will be the Sunwolves’ forwards coach and is no stranger when it comes to Japanese rugby. The former Ospreys’ back row plied his trade with Toyota Verblitz as a player between 2002 and 2006 and then as assistant and head coach in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Tiatia also had a stint with the Japan national team under Eddie Jones in 2013.
Mauger, who will coach the backs for Sunwolves, knows head coach Hammett from their time together at Canterbury Crusaders in New Zealand. He also had spells playing abroad in England, France and Italy before taking the reins of the Chinese-Taipei sevens team in Taiwan in 2013. Hammett and Mauger encountered one another during the Christmas holidays and this led to Mauger’s appointment, JRC understands.
These two appointments come three days after Sunwolves announced a sponsorship deal with Japanese human resources company HITO-Communications and the club re-named the HITO-Comm Sunwolves.
Head coach Mark Hammett will take questions from the media and fans later this month at an event in Tokyo with Tiatia and Mauger also expected to make appearances at the event.
Further staff such as translators and medical staff are still in the latter processes of screening, JRC understands. No warm-up games have been announced as yet but it is expected Sunwolves will take on a Kanto-based club in mid-February in preparation for their first Super Rugby game.