Gareth Baber

Fiji 7s coach extends contract until Tokyo Olympics

The Welshman's original four-year deal was scheduled to end in December but, with the 2020 Olympics delayed by 12 months because of Covid-19, the FRU has extended his deal until the end of the global sporting showpiece in August next year, where Fiji will defend their gold medal from four years ago.

While the 2019/20 World Sevens Series was brought to a premature end last week, Gareth Baber intends to keep his players busy with provincial and local sevens competitions.

"We've put some plans in place based around what is happening here domestically in Fiji," he said.

Baber's future with Fiji Sevens team uncertain

Last month Fiji Rugby announced they were cutting costs to manage the financial fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure its long term sustainability.

Baber's four-year contract is due to end in January.

Fiji Sports Commission Chairman Peter Mazey told FBC news that a contract extension is dependent on funding from the government.

Meanwhile, if given the green light, the Fiji Rugby Union has marked 11 July as the proposed date for local rugby competitions to kick-off.

Fiji and the contractual dilemmas caused by the postponed Tokyo Games

Last week’s announcement that the Olympics have been delayed a year has caused the sevens coach an unexpected headache, and the problem extends to his squad as a number of players had planned to take up lucrative deals in 15s rugby – most notably in America’s enlarged Major League Rugby – after the Olympic Games.

The lure of Olympic gold will now force these players to look again at those club contracts and decide if they want to remain part of the Fijian sevens squad as it attempts to repeat the glory it won at the 2016 Games in Rio. 

Fiji preparation for Hamilton 7s underway in Navua

The January tournament leaves little room for error with teams advancing directly from pool play to the semi-finals instead of the traditional quarterfinals.

Fiji have had a disappointing season so far finishing sixth in Cape Town, which leaves them languishing in 8th place overall in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings.

But coach Gareth Baber is working on returning them to the form that saw them crowned champions in 2019 when they take on Argentina, Australia and Samoa in pool play in Hamilton.

Baber: Talks ongoing with European clubs as gold medal pressure mounts

 

Fiji’s 2016 Olympic Games gold was turned into a book by former head coach Ben Ryan and became an acclaimed film, Sevens from Heaven charting the amazing achievement by some of the World’s most talented, yet underfunded rugby union players, who seamlessly moved from village matches to an Olympic Games final in Brazil.

'It is not something to be proud of and it's an area that we are constantly working on'

Ahead of the opening leg of the new season series, which kicks off in Dubai on December 5, the Fijian boss revealed he wants to see better decision making from his players and limit the number of times they operate one man down during matches due to yellow or red card offences.

So frequently were they sanctioned that they ended the campaign tied with Tonga for the receipt of most cards during the series.

Debut season a learning curve for Fiji 7s coach

The Olympic champions relinquished their World Series crown, finishing third behind runaway leaders South Africa and England.

Baber missed the opening two legs of the campaign, after completing his contract with the Hong Kong Rugby Union, before linking up with the team in time for the final round of the Wellington Sevens in January.

The Welshman led Fiji to three finals and one Cup title in his first five events but they failed to make it past the quarter finals in the final rounds.

Fiji 7s still searching for consistency

After the highs of winning in Hong Kong, Fiji were upset 24-19 by the United States in the Cup quarter finals in Singapore before series leaders South Africa prevailed 19-14 in their fifth place semi final encounter.

"We've just got to learn to be a little bit more consistent," said Baber.

"We came up against a good American side in the quarter final and they reacted far better than we did and in the South Africa game going down to six men hurt us badly.

Fiji 7s coach Gareth Baber ready to embrace pressure of new role

A former Wales sevens coach and player, Baber will start his new job in January once his contract as coach of the Hong Kong sevens team comes to an end.

He said the opportunity to take charge of the World and Olympic champions was too good to pass up.

"As a developing coach you want to try and test yourself at the top levels," he said.

Gareth Baber appointed Fiji 7s coach

The 44-year-old has captained Wales in the World Sevens Series, two Sevens World Cups, and two Commonwealth Games.

He is the current head coach of the Hong Kong men's and women's sevens teams, having been appointed at the end of 2013, and previously had stints as the assistant and then head coach of the Wales men's sevens team between 2005 and 2008.

Baber is a World Rugby level four Accredited Coach and also has experience in the 15-a-side game, including a spell as head coach of the Cardiff Blues.