Hong Kong Sevens

Forget the hype, we’re out to do our job, says Hong Kong’s Gareth Baber

Coach has worked with Welsh stars in past and only wants the best from his squad

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2014, 10:13pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 March, 2014, 10:30pm

As he prepares to name his first Hong Kong Sevens squad on Saturday, new head coach Gareth Baber has warned his players not to believe their own hype.

Baber played in three Hong Kong Sevens and was coach in another two with Wales, so he is no stranger to the tournament, but admits he has been taken aback by the spotlight on his team.

While "very much looking forward" to next weekend's tournament, where Hong Kong will try to win the qualifying event and become a core team on next season's IRB World Series, he told the South China Morning Post: "I've been blown away and somewhat concerned by the razzmatazz around it - but I understand where it comes from."

One of the biggest things when you go and run out in front of 40,000 people is that you’re right mentally
Gareth Baber

Baber, who worked with some of Wales' biggest names in his previous job as part of Cardiff Blues' coaching setup, said even those stars did not receive the attention his players will in coming days.

"I come from a fanatical rugby culture in Wales ... I've worked around a lot of the players - your Sam Warburtons, Jamie Robertses - I was coaching them in the academy and they went straight through with me in the Cardiff Blues as well and I know the attention they get.

"They're seasoned international players now who have been British Lions captains and man of the tournaments at the age of 20, 21 on British Lions tours and they don't get some of the attention these players are getting here.

"As a coach I'm trying to ensure they're all developing in the right way and for two weeks of the year these guys get a huge amount of attention, which is completely out of proportion with what they get for the rest of the season.

"It's not necessarily a bad thing. It's good, it promotes the game in Hong Kong, it takes us right to the top, but I've also got to be careful about where it fits into their psyche as well.

"You're always thinking about how you develop individuals - one of the biggest ways is by getting them to understand mentally what it means to be top-level players.

"I was fortunate enough to be in those environments.

"I'm not saying I was a British Lion or anything, but I was certainly surrounded by those players in a long career and realised what it was to be at that level - and it's important they get to that."

Hong Kong are now a full-time outfit as part of the Sports Institute, with all the support that that entails, but Baber, who began his job at the turn of the year, warns the 2014 tournament is far too early to see the benefits.

His immediate concern is ensuring his players are fully focused.

"There's a lot of economic and business and commercial stuff done around [the tournament], but ultimately all I'm judged on is what goes on a rugby field ... one of the biggest things when you go and run out in front of 40,000 people is that you're right mentally.

"All the conditioners have done a fantastic job getting them physically ready where they need to be; the coaches have got them tactically and technically to a position where they need to be - the thing that can probably drop off quickest is mentally and that to me is making sure that they're in the right frame of mind going into these tournaments."