Rugby: Jamie Joseph backed as future All Blacks coach after sealing New Zealand return with Highlanders

Jamie Joseph has been backed as a future All Blacks head coach despite missing out to Scott Robertson in the race to replace Ian Foster.

Joseph, 53, ultimately finished second in New Zealand Rugby's appointment process, as it sought to finalise the All Blacks' coaching picture before this year's World Cup in France.

While Robertson - who led the Crusaders to a Super Rugby title in seven consecutive years - was the clear frontrunner to succeed Foster, Joseph's CV is equally as glowing.

As head coach of the Highlanders, Joseph won the side's first and so far only Super Rugby crown in 2015, before taking charge of Japan.

Jamie Joseph.
Jamie Joseph. Photo credit: Photosport

In 46 tests, Joseph has so far coached Japan to 21 victories, including topping their pool at the 2019 Rugby World Cup - finishing first ahead of both Ireland and Scotland.

Looking past results, though, Joseph has transformed the Japanese game as national coach, and allowed the Brave Blossoms to regularly compete with the game's established elite.

However, Joseph will leave his Japan post at the end of 2023, after signing on to return to New Zealand with the Highlanders.

Rather than return as head coach, though, Joseph will instead work as the Highlanders' head of rugby to support coach Clarke Dermody.

Speaking on Sky Sport's The Breakdown, though, Sir John Kirwan emphasises having Joseph in the New Zealand system will pave the way for him to eventually take the helm of the All Blacks. 

"It's great for New Zealand rugby," said Kirwan. "Jamie has the potential to be an All Black coach, the next All Black coach.

"He's had his experience, he's coming home. He's a really good rugby man."

In the more immediate future, though, Joseph has a job to do in rebuilding the Highlanders.

Since that 2015 title, the Highlanders haven't looked like challenging the likes of the Crusaders.

This year, the Highlanders were the only Kiwi side not to qualify for the playoffs, winning just five games to finish ninth overall.

But Joseph's return should change that, argues former player Jeff Wilson. 

"[It's] great news for the Highlanders," said Wilson. "It puts literally everyone on notice.

"We know who Jamie is, what he's done for the franchise, where he's coming from. He wants to give back, but he also wants to be part of a successful franchise.

"I think he'll have a break after the Rugby World Cup. He's been with Japan for a long time now, but early next year he'll come back into the fold.

"The thing about Jamie is he won't rush into making decisions. He'll come in and put his eye over things and say 'here are some adjustments we can make to help the Highlanders compete."

Joseph's Japan will head to the World Cup placed in Pool D, and will face England, Argentina, Samoa and Chile for a spot in the quarter-finals.