Gareth Baber has been appointed the new head coach of the Fiji men’s sevens team, the reigning Olympic and HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions.
Baber, who has spent the last three years overseeing Hong Kong’s sevens programme, will assume the post vacated by Ben Ryan early next year.
Baber has been appointed on an initial four-year contract with Fiji, which will take the reigning Olympic champions through to the next Summer Games in Japan in 2020.
“As a coach, this is an incredible opportunity to work with the present world and Olympic champions. Coaches, like players, need to constantly challenge themselves; I want to continuously strengthen my knowledge of the game and the competition level that Fiji operates at will provide that opportunity,” Baber said.
“This appointment would not have been possible without the support of the Hong Kong Rugby Union and the opportunities they have given me. I have tremendous affection for Hong Kong and Hong Kong rugby and if there is one positive to my leaving it is the opportunity to work with Fiji Rugby, who have such a special relationship with the city, and the chance to return every year during the Hong Kong Sevens.
"My time in Hong Kong has been amongst the most rewarding in my career and I thank the Union and the community for their support and wish the HKRU the greatest success across every level of the game,” Baber added.
Baber leaves Hong Kong in a strong position, with the men’s sevens team coming within 10 minutes of a place at the 2016 Rio Games and having won their third Asian sevens title in five years earlier this month.
Recently hired assistant men’s sevens coach Jevon Groves will assume coaching duties in the interim while the Hong Kong Rugby Union undertakes a search for Baber’s replacement.
Baber can reflect on his time in Hong Kong with pride: “We have had significant success on the pitch, but I am most pleased with our accomplishments outside the public eye, particularly the way that the players have embraced what it means to be full-time professionals, in a training environment or under the pressures of tournament play.
“I am confident that the structures we have established via the collaboration between the HKRU and Hong Kong Sports Institute will benefit not just rugby but Hong Kong sport for years to come. The staff at the Institute and the Union are dedicated, professional and highly capable of ensuring Hong Kong rugby maintains its positive trajectory.
“I am also confident that under assistant coach Jevon Groves the transition for the men’s sevens squad will be a smooth one and that Hong Kong will not lose a step in preparing for what could be a pivotal year for Hong Kong’s sevens aspirations.”