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Baber steps up to lead Fiji against Wales

Gareth Baber with his Fijian Sevens players

Baber steps up to lead Fiji against Wales

Former scrum-half Gareth Baber will coach Fiji against Wales, the country of his birth, this autumn after they were forced to rejig their squad and support staff for their northern hemisphere tour.

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Wales will host Fiji in their third autumn Test on Sunday, November 14 with Baber stepping in for Vern Cotter as the man heading up the Pacific Island nation.

The ongoing challenges of Covid-19 and the impact of travel and quarantine restrictions mean Fiji have decided not to bring any players or coaches based in the southern hemisphere to the north.

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It means Baber replaces former Scotland head coach Cotter before he will join Edinburgh in the United Rugby Championship.

Click here, to buy tickets to Wales’ autumn internationals

Baber, who coached Fiji’s Sevens side to Olympic gold at last summer’s Tokyo Games, said: “Working with the Flying Fijians is a fantastic challenge in a very unique situation.

“With the logistical difficulties for Vern and his staff preventing their travel, it falls to me to combine this unbelievable playing talent and expertise of the support staff into a winning formula in such a short space of time.

“But what an honour it is and I am fully aware of the expectation for performance for the three games and the opportunity this creates for all concerned.

“I would like to thank the FRU Board, CEO John O’Connor and high-performance general manager Simon Raiwalui for their trust and faith in my abilities.

“I’m determined to pay this back in representing the nation of Fiji to the best of my abilities.”

Gareth Baber has been working with Fiji’s Sevens side with great success (Credit: Fiji Rugby)

With the logistical difficulties for Vern and his staff preventing their travel, it falls to me to combine this unbelievable playing talent and expertise of the support staff into a winning formula in such a short space of time

Fiji chief executive O’Connor added: “We could have made arrangements for management and players to travel to for the northern tour but we were not able to guarantee their return.

“We could not take the risk of players and staff being stuck in the northern hemisphere in 2022 as such we made the decision not to use anyone from the southern hemisphere for the tour.

“We have had no option but to look at alternative arrangements in the northern hemisphere. As such, Olympic gold medal-winning and outgoing Fijian Sevens coach Gareth Baber has been given the responsibility to lead the pack as head coach.

“It was a natural selection with Baber. He obviously has five years of experience working with the Fijian Sevens team, managing high-profile players and putting in a plan for the international competition and achieving positive results.

“While we understand it will be a challenge for Gareth, we believe he will gel well with the Fijian players.

“We are thankful that Gareth took on the challenge. His involvement as the head coach will be the final curtain of his five-year involvement with Fiji Rugby prior to moving to his new appointment.”

Click here, to buy tickets to Wales’ autumn internationals

Raiwalui said despite the difficulties, Fiji has managed to assemble a strong team for the three Test matches next month even though Bristol’s Semi Radradra is out having had knee surgery.

The giant Viliame Mata of Edinburgh and Albert Tuisue of London Irish will be key figures in the Fiji pack as will Leone Nakarawa.

In the backs, La Rochelle’s Levani Botia is a fine player, as is Josua Tuisova who scored the last time Wales played Fiji.

Fiji’s last meeting with Wales came at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in the pool stages in Japan.

Wales were 29-17 winners in that game despite Fiji making a fast start.

Josh Adams of Wales beats Ben Volavola of Fiji to score a try when the two sides last met at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Ahead of the rematch, Raiwalui said: “It’s a smaller squad than normal. Normally we would travel with 32 players but due to shortage in positions, we have got a group of 28 players.

“There are couple of areas where we will have a shortage of players such as loosehead prop, hooker and halfback. We don’t have depth in these position in the northern hemisphere, but we have selected a great team.

“We have players who are returning from injury and missed a couple of tours with the Flying Fijians such as Viliame Mata and Nikola Matawalu.

“We have got three new players coming in from the Fijian Sevens environment and the Olympic Gold medallists who have gone up north in Vilimoni Botitu, Aminiasi Tuimaba and Jiuta Wainiqolo.

“It’s a strong and exciting squad and we looking forward to the challenge,”

Fiji also face Spain and Georgia on tour in addition to their Welsh challenge.

Fiji 28-man squad for Wales clash:

Forwards: Peni Ravai, Eroni Mawi, Samuel Matavesi, Peniami Narisia, Luke Tagi, Mesake Doge, Leeroy Atalifo, Tevita Ratuva, Temo Mayanavanua, Albert Tuisue, Leone Nakarawa, Peceli Yato, Johnny Dyer, Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Mesulame Kunavula, Viliame Mata

Backs: Frank Lomani, Nikola Matawalu, Ben Volavola, Vilimoni Botitu, Levani Botia, Eneriko Buliruarua, Waisea Nayacalevu, Josua Tuisova, Eroni Sau, Aminiasi Tuimaba, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Seta Tuicuvu

Ticket details for Wales’ autumn fixtures: 

Wales v New Zealand, Principality Stadium – Saturday 30th October SOLD-OUT 

Wales v South Africa, Principality Stadium – Saturday 6th November CAT A £75 (£37.50) / CAT B £65 (£32.50) / CAT C £45 (£22.50) 

Wales v Fiji, Principality Stadium – Sunday 14th November CAT A £35 (£17.50) / CAT B £25 (£12.50) / CAT C £20 (£10) 

Wales v Australia, Principality Stadium – Saturday 20th November CAT A £75 (£37.50) / CAT B £65 (£32.50) / CAT C £45 (£22.50) 

For the first time, concession tickets are available in ALL categories for ALL matches across the series (shown in brackets). 

CLICK HERE To buy tickets

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