News

New Men's Sevens coach aiming for Rio success

27 May 2014

RUGBY: The three-month search for a new national Rugby Sevens coach is over with Welshman Geraint John announced as Michael O'Connor's replacement.

The 51-year-old John will have just a month in the job before leading Australia's Commonwealth Games campaign in Glasgow.

However his chief focus is on the Olympic qualification period which begins in October.

John has been head coach of the Canadian Sevens team since 2010, and between 1999-2001 served as Graham Henry's skills coach with the Welsh national rugby side.

When long-serving O'Connor announced he was stepping down in February, Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver declared he'd search the world for a new coach, with topline Sevens coaching experience hard to come by.

John's achievements with the unheralded Canadians over the past 12 months as well as his case for the Australian job impressed ARU officials, who have centralised the Sevens program in Sydney and are determined to lift performance.

Canada finished sixth, just one place behind Australia in the 2013-14 World Series, and qualified for their first-ever final in May in Glasgow.

However, John recognises that taking the reins for Australia ahead of a Commonwealth Games and then the inaugural Olympics gold medal campaign in 2016, will provide a major test.

His first challenge will be to decide whether to invite Super Rugby talent to join his young squad of battlers for the Glasgow Games in July-August.

"Australian rugby is steeped in history and in my opinion, the role of men's Sevens head coach is one of the best team jobs in the sport," John said.

"While the prospect of coaching at the Olympics is an extremely appetising one, for me, the next tournament is always the most important.

"However, I am under no illusion that one of the key targets of the ARU is for the men's Sevens team to secure a gold medal in Rio.

"While you can never guarantee anything in sport - and especially the Olympics - I am delighted to be given the opportunity to give us the best possible chance of bringing back gold in 2016."

Australia came home with silver from the last Commonwealth Games, and will begin plotting revenge against New Zealand when John starts in his role on June 23.

O'Connor, who continued on as coach while the ARU searched for his replacement, was consulted about John's appointment.

ARU general manager of team and rugby operations Andrew Fagan and Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie were also part of the selection panel.

"Throughout the interview process, the ARU was unanimous that Geraint was the outstanding candidate," said Fagan.

"Geraint showed a genuine hunger for the role ... and brings with him a huge level of experience and knowledge."

AAP and Australian Rugby