21 Dec 2016

Sport: Incoming Fiji 7s coach says he's involved in player contract talks

1:30 pm on 21 December 2016

The incoming Fiji sevens coach Gareth Baber says he's involved in discussions regarding new contracts for the players.

The Fiji Rugby Union has come under fire after it emerged the Olympic and World Series champions had played the last two tournaments without any long-term security.

The situation came to light when former coach Ben Ryan appealed to the FRU to pay the players.

Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan

Ben Ryan issues instructions during his time as Fiji sevens coach. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

His successor, Gareth Baber, will take charge in the new year and said he has been party to conversations about finding a solution.

"The players did a great job in Dubai and South Africa, even though some of these concerns are in their heads," he said.

"It's not through any fault of the players - they're doing what they do - but there's a bigger picture here in terms of ensuring that it's sustainable for the future of Fijian rugby.

"I think it's prudent in terms of the rugby union and the players as well to ensure that they have good conversations - and I'm part of that as well, as are obviously people around the rugby union in Fiji - to make sure that it works for the future and it works for ensuring that one day again they will grab that Olympic gold."

The new Fiji sevens coach Gareth Baber

The incoming Fiji sevens coach Gareth Baber. Photo: Andy Jones / Hong Kong Rugby Union / AFP

Gareth Baber said he's hopeful there will be at the very least an understanding agreed to between all parties in time for the Wellington Sevens at the end of January, which will be his first in charge of the team.

"What I don't want to do is obviously the players still be in a position of flux and not understanding exactly where their future lies and trying to provide some security to that obviously aids performance," he said.

"My biggest concern is going to be performing in international competitions and having done it myself (for Wales) I know I don't want them to have distractions.

I want them to feel some sort of security so they're able to focus their minds on what is a very intense and competitive tournament going into Wellington."

Encouraged by performances

Gareth Baber says, despite failing to win either tournament, he's been impressed by the performances of the Fiji team in Dubai and Cape Town.

The defending World Series champs finished second and fifth during the first two legs of the new season.

Fiji captain Osea Kolinisau scores against Kenya

Fiji finished fifth in Cape Town. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA/World Rugby

Interim head coach Naca Cawanibuka said the preparation had not been ideal, with the squad only having two weeks together before their first event, and fitness levels were not where they needed to be.

Baber was a keen observer from his current base in Hong Kong and said he was encouraged by what he saw.

"You always want consistency in a group of players in the way you play and certainly I thought that Fiji played the way that Fiji play and it is what has made them so successful over the last 20-30 years," he said.

"Even though there was a few players that had played in the Olympics weren't with them there was notably some young players in who are now sort of staking their claims to continue on in the squad.

"I'm looking forward to getting into Fiji - it gets closer and closer and obviously Wellington and Sydney gets closer and closer - so I just want to continue some of the good work that's been done by the coaches who were there and the players that are there."