10:02am Monday 2nd June 2014
By Gordon Thomas
A FORMER Haverfordwest man has been appointed by Australian Rugby Union as the new Qantas Men's Sevens Head Coach.
Geraint John will take over from Michael O’Connor who stepped down in February after six years in charge. John joins the ARU from Rugby Canada where had been head coach of their men’s sevens squad since 2010. The big challenge is to guide Australia to Commonwealth Games and Olympic gold.
John will start his new job with Australia on Monday, June 23 before taking charge of the team for the first time at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July. He will then lead Australia into the 2014/15 Sevens World Series, which will kick-off on the Gold Coast in October. This is the first tournament of the Olympic qualification period.
The 51-year-old was brought up in Haverfordwest, and was educated at Prendergast Primary and Sir Thomas Picton Schools, before going to University in Cardiff.
The former fly-half and utility player was the catalyst in Cardiff RFC's team in the 80s when the game was still amateur. His playing career included representative honours with Wales Schools Under-19s, Wales A, Wales B and selection for the Barbarians, and he can count himself rather unlucky that he did not obtain that elusive full cap.
After retiring from the game he took up coaching in 1992 and joined Cardiff and worked there for six years. He also worked under Kiwi coach Graham Henry as coach with Wales from 1999-2001 and had also had a spell in charge of the Wales Sevens squad.
John then took up the role as director of rugby at Hartpury College, Gloucester. But in 2006 he moved to Canada, and was appointed their high performance director and became head coach of Rugby Canada Sevens team in 2010, and did a superb job where he led the country back to IRB core status in 2012.
John lived in Vancouver Island on the western edge of Canada with his teacher wife Debbie and their daughter Lauren.
But the Pembrokeshire rugby fraternity will probably best remember his late father Uri, who regularly turned out for Whitland in the 50s and 60s.
Former Sir Thomas Picton pupils will also have fond memories of Uri as the school's caretaker and Geraint's mother, Perlys, who was the school secretary, and she still lives in Haverfordwest.
John played for Pembrokeshire County at every age group level and played for the senior team who played two historical games against international touring sides Japan and the USA Eagles in the 1980s.
John most recently led Canada to its first ever IRB Sevens World Series Cup Final in Glasgow in early May 2014.
“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.
“My first priority is to prepare and work with the players and to get to know them at the centralised base and then in competition at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July.
“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.
“However, the first step for this team is to qualify. We need to make sure we have the best structure and program to make this happen.”
“We have many big challenges ahead in the coming months but a challenge is something I thrive on. Michael [O’Connor] has left behind an extremely talented squad.
“It is one of the youngest in the World Series and they’re continuing to improve. I am looking forward to meeting them on an individual basis and as a group next month.”
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