Highlanders looking at assistant Brown for top job

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Tony Brown is firming as the favourite to become the new Otago Highlanders head coach after the chief executive of the Super Rugby franchise said they would be “silly” not to consider him for a return to the role.

The former Highlanders flyhalf is considered one of the best attack coaches in the game and currently combines that role as an assistant in Dunedin with a similar post under Jamie Joseph with the Japan national team.

The Highlanders, who won the Super Rugby title in 2015 under Joseph, are in the hunt for a new head coach after Aaron Mauger was let go last week after three years in charge.

“We’d be silly not to consider it. He’s been head coach before,” chief executive Roger Clark told news website on Tuesday.

Brown was previously Highlanders head coach after Joseph’s departure for Japan in 2017 and led the side to the quarter-finals of the playoffs before making way for Mauger.

Clark said the Highlanders might also consider appointing forwards coach Clarke Dermody alongside Brown in the top job after bringing in a new defence coach.

“It’s just something we’re talking about at the moment,” he added.

“The key thing is that we’ve got a really capable coaching group ... We need to make sure that we complement that current group, but really the area that we’ll be targeting is getting a world-class defence coach.”

The Highlanders finished fourth in the five-team Super Rugby Aotearoa competition that New Zealand ran this year after the international version was brought to a stop by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joseph, who led Japan to the quarter-finals of the World Cup last year, has already ruled himself out of contention for a return to Dunedin.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford