The chosen one

HE used to watch Fiji play before the introduction of the world sevens series and from a young age our new national coach Gareth Baber felt the team was consistently one of the best in the world.

However, Baber never envisaged he would one day be mentoring Fijian players.

He labels the new job as “daunting”.

“It is a huge honour and privilege that the board of the Fiji Rugby Union has chosen me to help shape the future of their national game,” he said from Hong Kong yesterday.

The former Wales rugby 7s player and coach also acknowledged his current employers — the Hong Kong Rugby Union and the Hong Kong Sports Institute “for offering me the opportunity back in 2013 to put into practice my thoughts and philosophy on establishing and running a high performance sevens rugby program”.

“I am even more excited to bring what I have learned to the group of world-class athletes at the Fiji Rugby Union.

“My next challenge is quite daunting. Taking over the coaching of the present Olympic champions and World Series winners is no small task — and I am both excited and humbled by this opportunity,” Baber said.

The Master of Science graduate from Cardiff University said he could now clearly see how much hard work, investment and “good coaching has gone into the players to establish the consistency of performance that has been displayed so magnificently during Ben Ryan’s tenure”.

“My task is now to bring in my own style of coaching and emulate these performances and ultimately to continue to develop the players and staff to new heights.

“I am sure that as a team we will have obstacles to overcome, but as any player or coach knows, those are opportunities for us to learn and grow from – indeed they represent the best opportunities to develop ourselves as both players and individuals.”

Baber said his first few challenges were the obvious ones of having a “new team, new culture, new expectations’ and most importantly, performance” all of which excite him.

“That excitement is why I do this job. I both want and am prepared for the challenge and the honour of working with the best 7s players in the world.

“I believe that there is a sense of a kindred spirit in Wales, Fiji and indeed Hong Kong where the love of the game, particularly sevens, is an intrinsic part of the national character.”

After his appointment he now looks forward to meeting Fijians and learning more about the culture he said he saw his predecessor Ryan embracing.

“I am both hopeful and confident that I will be able to follow in his footsteps in this. There is a huge tradition and heritage around rugby in Fiji, which is the envy of the world. I hope that I am able to influence just a bit of that.

“Finally, can I also take this opportunity to thank my wife Danielle and three wonderful kids Amy, Adam and Steffan, for all of their love and support.”

Former Fiji 7s coach Ben Ryan said he wished Baber well on his new assignment with the Fiji team.

“I just wish him all the very best,” Ryan said from London yesterday.

“I will be cheering the boys on this season. Vei Lomani.”

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