The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) has confirmed the appointment of former Wales Sevens coach Paul John as the new coach of the men’s sevens team and the head of the elite rugby sevens athlete programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI).
John replaces former coach Gareth Baber who assumed the Fiji head coach position late last year.
Dai Rees, General Manager of Rugby Performance at the HKRU commented on the appointment saying, “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. Ultimately this is an HKSI appointment, but as the involved National Sports Association (NSA), we worked closely with the Institute and were well represented on the selection panel.
“We are very fortunate to have identified an outstanding candidate in former Wales Sevens coach Paul John. 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,” Rees added.
The 47-year old former scrumhalf represented Wales on ten 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. Most recently he served as assistant coach with the Cardiff Blues, after having served as the club’s interim coach in 2014.
In 2009, John was appointed head coach of Wales Sevens, coaching the side to an upset win in the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai in the same year. John coached Wales Sevens for six seasons, including coaching the team at two Commonwealth Games and the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens. John also led Wales to their only Cup final appearance at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in 2013 when Fiji pipped them 26-19 after coming back from a 19-0 deficit.
Another factor in John’s favour was his experience in working with the Welsh Institute of Sport and managing 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. 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,” Rees said.
John will assume the dual roles of programme administrator at the Hong Kong Sports Institute and Hong Kong men’s sevens coach starting in March 2017. His first coaching experience with the Hong Kong men’s and women’s sevens squads will be at the Borneo Sevens in March, ahead of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC 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 under Baber 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,” noted Rees.