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'It can get overbearing' - Baber admits pressure of Fiji job got to him

By Ian Cameron
Fiji Sevens coach Gareth Baber.

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The pressure of coaching Fiji’s national Sevens side got to Gareth Baber, the Olympic gold-winning coach has admitted.

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Baber, who guided Fiji to gold in Tokyo, has swapped sevens for the fifteen a side game with Edinburgh and has spoken about how being under the microscope in the rugby mad country at times became ‘overbearing’.

“It is a small bubble and I’m completely aware of that, but it is constant,” Baber told Jamie Lyall in an in-depth interview for RugbyPass+. “Every man, woman and child has an opinion on you and what you do. It can get overbearing at times. They don’t mean anything by it – but you’re not Gareth Baber, you’re coach of the Fijian national team and you’ve got a responsibility to make us the best in the world.

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“The guys in Suva who are down on their luck, pretty much homeless and looking to scrape pennies together for a hot meal try to make a living by shoe-shining. There was one at a local café we used to go to – he was always there, he’d always have the chat, always be on about this player, that player, what I’m doing well and what I could do better. ‘The next tournament, you have to take this player with you.’ You’re standing in the corner of a street with a guy you’ve just given a couple of dollars to so he can get a hot meal, and he’s basically having a strategy meeting with you.

“The ladies in the market are cutting and selling flowers or produce. They’ve always got a cousin, or a sister’s cousin, who should be in the sevens team.”

“It’s good natured, but there is some validity behind it as well. The team is known as the people’s team. As the people’s team, there is an expectation anybody playing in a local tournament has the ability to step up and play.

Baber was offered a fresh contract with Fiji but instead opted to return to Europe.

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“I had decisions to make in my early days… is this for you? My wife and kids always backed me. ‘Yeah, of course it is. Get on with it, Dad, we can’t wait to be with you in Fiji’. They had a lovely life experience in Fiji and they came back to Cardiff as kids with a good international perspective on life.”

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