John Hardie hails Jamie Joseph as the right man to continue Japan success story
Scotland flanker John Hardie believes Jamie Joseph, his former coach with the Highlanders, is the ideal man to build on Eddie Jones' success as Japan coach.
Jones led Japan, Scotland's opponents on their current tour, to a memorable win over South Africa in last year's World Cup before taking over England and winning a Six Nations Grand Slam.
There might have been a feeling the Asian side had peaked under Jones but as far as the Scotland players are concerned, nothing could be further from the truth.
Joseph will officially take charge in August when his contract with the Highlanders expires, but is understood to be heavily involved behind the scenes while interim coach Mark Hammett leads the team until the pair swap jobs.
Hardie, who played under Joseph in Dunedin until last summer, says Joseph will be just as steeped in the Japanese rugby culture as Jones and has just as strong a track record of success, having coached the Highlanders to the Super Rugby crown last year.
"He is a good coach. I had him for four years and got to know him really well," said Hardie.
"He is used to success and of course he played a number of years in Japan so he knows the culture and the rugby set up over here. It is going to work out well for them."
While this is New Zealand-born Hardie's first trip to Japan, he is familiar with a number of the Japanese players who ply their trade in Super Rugby franchises.
"They are very good players, dangerous and good ball-handlers," said Hardie. "We saw when we played them in the World Cup how dangerous they could be and we have to be on our guard for that.
"They do use the chop tackle a lot. Every team has its way of doing things and that is the one they use, it is very effective. Most teams tend to go in a bit higher, but they are very good at bringing you down and we are going to have to find ways of combating that."
For Hardie, the key to winning the two Tests is which team can control the speed of possession, which puts a special emphasis on the back-row battle.
During the Six Nations, Scotland did well by mimicking the Australian model of playing two opensides, with John Barclay partnering Hardie in the back row.
That ploy could well be repeated against an injury-hit Japan back row to prevent them setting up early running opportunities.
"I understand that I am the target man there, it is my job to get in there and slow their ball down," said Hardie. "I like to think it is is more of a team responsibility, that everyone will play a part rather than just rely on me.
"It is a part of the game I enjoy, but everyone has to play their role. Every year the game gets faster and more physical so you can't rely on just one guy to do it all the time, it is a collective thing."