New skills coach Gareth Baber aims to ‘add value’ to Mike Blair’s Edinburgh

He’s only been at the club for a month, but Gareth Baber is already enthused about what Edinburgh Rugby can achieve and his own role within that.

Gareth Baber has joined Edinburgh as “skills and assistant attack coach”.  (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Gareth Baber has joined Edinburgh as “skills and assistant attack coach”. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The Welshman’s official title at the capital side is “skills and assistant attack coach” and he arrives in Scotland after five years in charge of the Fiji sevens side.

His record with the islanders was impressive, culminating in Olympic gold in Tokyo last summer. He has given it all up for a return to 15-a-side rugby and the chance to join what is fast emerging as an exciting project led by Mike Blair at Edinburgh.

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Currently second in the table after seven rounds of the United Rugby Championship, Blair’s side return to action this Saturday with a home game against Cardiff after an Covid-enforced hiatus which put paid to both 1872 Cup games against Glasgow over the festive period.

Gareth Baber guided Fiji to Olympic glory in Tokyo where they defeat New Zealand in the final of the men's rugby sevens. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

“I think a lot of good work has been done prior to my getting here,” said Baber. “The team are pretty settled in the way they want to play the game and they’ve shown great humility in the way they want to improve all the time.

“When you create a culture like that it starts to reflect generally in the way that you play. You don’t always get it right, but what you’re looking for is an objective response in being able to improve as a group of players and as a staff. We challenge each other all the time to move that on, and that has probably been reflected on the field.”

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Edinburgh have won five, drawn one and lost one in the URC, with 11 rounds of fixtures remaining before the play-offs. So how high does Baber think the team can finish?

Gareth Baber (9), in action for Newport Gwent Dragons against Edinburgh at Meadowbank in 2004. Baber is poised to tackle Derrick Lee. Current Edinburgh coach Mike Blair is on the left of the picture.

“It’s a little bit early for me to say,” he demurs. “I’m starting to get to know the players and the system that we operate. I haven’t seen us go against the likes of Leinster and Munster yet.

“Mike and the coaching staff have done a great job to date. The players are certainly encouraged by the way we’re wanting to play the game and the way we operate off field as well.”

Moving from head coach to assistant could present difficulties for some but Baber is embracing the change and believes he can make an impact alongside Blair.

“I came to Edinburgh because I wanted to be challenged differently in my coaching,” he explained. “I’d done something there in Fiji for five years and I also recognised there were certain strengths that I had in my coaching but there were certain things I wanted to develop and the conversations with Mike were around what I could add value to here.

“I don’t mean being different for the sake of being different, I mean thinking differently. I’ve got to be able to think differently.

“Going from head coach to assistant coach, that’s an important development for me. I also believe that a big part of leadership is understanding where you fit. I like being involved in teams.

“I know it’s not going to happen overnight and I’m looking forward to the challenge of working with Mike and the other coaches and the playing staff and the staff generally on building something as special as we possibly can.”

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