Sevens World Cup winner Paul John named new Hong Kong coach
Former Wales scrum half replaces Gareth Baber, who joined Fiji last year, having guided Wales to victory in Dubai in 2009
Sevens World Cup-winning coach Paul John has been named as Gareth Baber’s successor by the Hong Kong Rugby Union, with the role doubling as the head of the elite rugby sevens athlete programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
John, who guided Wales to victory in the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai, replaces Baber who took over as Fiji coach last year.
The 47-year-old former scrum half spent six seasons as Wales sevens coach and is no stranger to Hong Kong having guided the side to the cup final at the 2013 Hong Kong Sevens where they lost 26-19 to Fiji having fought back from 19-0 down at half-time.
John will assume the dual roles of programme administrator at the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) and Hong Kong Rugby Union’s (HKRU) men’s sevens coach next month.
“Once we knew that Gareth was going to accept the Fiji post, the HKRU began working with the HKSI to run an international executive search for his replacement,” said HKRU general manager of rugby performance Dai Rees.
“Ultimately this is an HKSI appointment, but as the involved National Sports Association, we worked closely with the Institute and were well represented on the selection panel.
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“Out of over 40 applicants for the position from around the world, Paul by far offered the most extensive experience in terms of coaching at the elite World Rugby Sevens Series level with six years at the helm of Wales, including their 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens victory in Dubai.”
John’s first experience with the Hong Kong men’s and women’s sevens squads will be at the Borneo Sevens in March, ahead of the Hong Kong Sevens in April.
Interim men’s sevens coach Jevon Groves, who was John’s captain for two seasons with the Wales sevens squad, will resume his previous position as assistant men’s sevens coach.
“Paul and Jevon know each other very well, which will help ensure a seamless transition to the Hong Kong role,” added Rees.
John represented Wales on 10 occasions, captaining the side against Canada in 1997, and previously played for Cardiff Met and Cardiff Blues before joining and captaining Pontypridd before retiring as a player in 2005.
John was appointed Wales sevens coach in 2009 and also led the side at two Commonwealth Games and the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Most recently John served as assistant coach with the Cardiff Blues after having served as the club’s interim coach in 2014, while he has also worked with the Welsh Institute of Sport and managed the talent identification and development programmes for Welsh Women’s Rugby.
“In addition to being a sevens specialist, Paul has spent the last three years in the Cardiff Blues set-up and has more than 15 years experience in coaching at a world class level,” said Rees.
“His experience managing programmes at the Welsh Institute of Sport and for the Welsh Rugby Union made him the ideal candidate for the HKSI position.”