Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones is set to return to the helm of the Japanese national team, with multiple Japanese media reports suggesting Jones only needs board approval before being officially appointed.
The links between Jones and the Japan role became a surprise storyline during the Rugby World Cup as reports of Jones meeting with the Japanese Rugby Football Union broke while he was in his role with the Wallabies.
Jones has constantly denied his interest in the role which is being vacated by Kiwi Jamie Joseph, however his departure from his position with the Wallabies after their failed World Cup campaign - less than a year into his five-year deal - opened the door for a rumoured return to Japan.
In leaving his post with Australia, Jones said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that his decision to resign did not mean he was taking the role with Japan.
“Look, I take responsibility for the bad results. But I don’t take responsibility for 20 years of decline of Australian rugby. And that’s what’s trying to be pinned on me,” Jones said.
“There’s no named source for these stories, so there’s no credibility about the story to start with. Secondly, the president of Japan Rugby happens to be a very close associate of mine. Every time I go to Japan, I have coffee with him. We talk about rugby. Have I met a Japanese representative? Yes. But I have done that for 30 years.”
However, it appears that will be Jones’ next move. The Sydney Morning Herald reported Jones had a second interview with the JRFU on Thursday, and a number of Japanese media outlets have reported Jones has beaten South African Frans Ludeke to the head coach job.
Jones’ appointment with Japan is not yet official, though could be in the coming week. Japanese sports site Sponchi reports the JRFU board is expected to meet on December 13 to either approve or deny the appointment.
Jones has a history with the Japanese side. He coached the team from 2012-2015 including at the 2015 Rugby World Cup where they claimed a memorable win over South Africa.