The Welshman won’t arrive until December but will come with an enviable track record in the abbreviated game.
Baber, 49, spent the summer guiding Fiji to the Olympic gold medal at the delayed Tokyo Games. It was the culmination of five years in charge of the island side during which they won 11 times on the World Rugby Sevens circuit, a record for a head coach.
“I’ve been tracking him for a while,” said Blair who has been looking for a new assistant since Duncan Hodge left the club. “I had differing opinions on the type of person to fill that role. I originally looked at potentially somebody along the lines of what I did for Gregor [Townsend] at the start of my career, so someone young and enthusiastic and starting to learn the ropes, but the longer I was in the job the more I thought about it being someone I can let get on with something.
“My conversations with Gareth were brilliant. I’d come off the phone feeling really enthused about how he’d go about his work in the skills section.
“I think he complements my coaching characteristics, in that I’m a little bit more off the cuff – I’ll think of doing something and do it – whereas Gareth is very much planning it and setting targets. And I think for our guys that is going to be something that is really important.”
Baber, for his part, was keen to return to the 15-a-side game, despite the fact Fiji wanted him to stay and lead the team’s bid for an unprecedented hat-trick of Olympic titles at Paris 2024.
“I have a burning ambition to challenge my coaching again in the 15s environment and know that I must immerse myself in this if I’m truly to be measured and to progress in my coaching career,” he told the Fiji Rugby website.
Blair is honest enough to admit the transition from sevens won’t be easy
“We’re really pleased to have him on board as that senior, more experienced coach – but we also realise that he has been out of 15s for a while, so it is not going to be just a really smooth transition for him into it because he’s got lots of learning to do as well,” said the Edinburgh boss. “But what he’s going to be able to bring to this squad is going to be vital pushing us forward.”
Blair thinks Baber can have a positive impact on Edinburgh’s Fijian contingent and can also help identify others from Fiji and the wider sevens circuit who could boost the squad.
“He’s worked with the Fijians and knows their mindset and knows our guys which will help get the best out of Lee-Roy Atalifo, Mesu Kunavula and Viliame Mata.
“And it might be that he knows a couple of hidden gems he can bring to the club. There’s lots of stuff going for this appointment.”