Baber confident: Eyes on WC after Commonwealth Games, world 7s series

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama , Fiji Airways Fiji 7s coach Gareth Baber and President Jioji Konrote at Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Friday, June 15, 2018. Picture: JONA KONATACI

FIJI Airways Fiji 7s coach Gareth Baber, quickly becoming the best 7s coach in the world, faces one of his toughest assignments for Fiji in the coming weeks.

Baber won a record five World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments this season to almost capture his first series title.

Now the former Hong Kong rugby mentor faces the difficult task of selecting his Sevens Rugby World Cup squad to San Francisco, US, next month.

Apart from his year-long regulars, Baber now has the inclusion of European best player of the year and Olympian Leone Nakarawa and Toulon, France-based teammates Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova, plus Semi ‘The Beast’ Kunatani.

And the world cup is Fiji’s last chance for a 7s title this year after missing the series and the Commonwealth Games titles.

Baber said he would likely go for experience and consistency for the ultimate prize.

“World cups are about experience,” he said.

“It is about being able to reproduce performance and you need players who have experience in that recreational performance and know how to do it individually and collectively.

“So, I’ll be looking at players who have been at that level and done it recently and are capable of playing in those environments.”

Local-based Paula Dranisinukula, Isake Katonibau, Sevuloni Mocenacagi, Josua Vakurinabili, Kalione Nasoko, Jasa Veremalua, Vatemo Ravouvou, Jerry Tuwai (C), Waisea Nacuqu, Eroni Sau, Amenoni Nasilasila,and Alasio Naduva had been in devastating form this year.

Now with the France trio included, Baber will have a tough time naming his final squad. “We will get the players back next week and the following week.

They need a bit of rest and recuperation.

“They have had three weeks away from their families and we’ve come to the end of a block of about what seems like 12 months, but it’s about nine months of work that they have put in.

“Firstly, we will go to a training camp in Utah and the players are where they need to be. They’ve had that rest and recovery and are motivated and fresh to go in and win a world cup gold.”

He said the pressure was now on him to deliver similar results to that of winning five gold medals in the series.

“We know the pressure is on. My job now is to ensure that the players are going to play games that you’ve seen them win five golds this year. I am pretty confident we can do that.

“If we play the way we have played this season, we can reproduce that in the world cup and I think we will be in a good place.”

The Sevens Rugby World Cup will be from July 20-22.

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