Rugby-Japan centre Sa'u snubs coach-less Sunwolves to join Blues

Dec 14 - Centre Male Sa'u has become the latest Japan international to snub the new Tokyo and Singapore-based Sunwolves Super Rugby team, signing a one-year deal to play for the Auckland Blues next season. The New Zealand-born 28-year-old, who played three matches for Japan in the Rugby World Cup earlier this year, would have been a useful signing for the Sunwolves given his Super Rugby experience with the Melbourne Rebels. With just over two months until their maiden fixture against South Africa's Lions on Feb. 27, the Sunwolves have yet to announce a head coach or publicly name any players. While incoming SANZAR chief executive Andy Marinos said last month that the Sunwolves would definitely make their debut and had contracted "24 to 25" players, there will be concerns about their competitiveness in the expanded 18-team competition. Japanese Rugby Union chairman Tatsuzo Yabe said in April that the Sunwolves would be comprised mainly of Japan players but Sa'u is the fifth to sign for an overseas team for 2016. Fullback Ayumu Goromaru and number eight Hendrik Tui will play for the Queensland Reds, while captain Michael Leitch and scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka will return to the Waikato Chiefs and Otago Highlanders respectively. The lack of a coach would have made securing the services of players difficult. Former Australia and Canterbury Crusaders coach Robbie Deans was again linked with the post in the New Zealand media on Monday. Deans, who has been in charge at Japanese Top League side Panasonic Wild Knights since 2014, said last week he was not interested in coaching the Sunwolves or the Japan national team. "I did 12 years in Super Rugby and won seven titles -- five as head coach and two as manager," he told Kyodo news agency. "I am not looking at returning to international rugby or Super Rugby. I have done my time there." Mark Hammett, the former coach of the Wellington Hurricanes, is another New Zealander who has been linked with the job. New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew, who admitted to being worried about the situation at the Sunwolves last month, reiterated his concerns on Monday. "They haven't got a coach and that's the most pressing problem and we're told that'll be resolved before Christmas," he told New Zealand's Radio Sport. "Clearly that's already too late. I'm not hiding from it." (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ian Ransom)