New Sevens coach Geraint John says he’ll negotiate with the ARU and Super Rugby teams about available talent for the Commonwealth Games.
New national Sevens coach Geraint John hopes to convince Super Rugby franchises that letting star players represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games and Olympics can be beneficial for all parties.
The Australian Rugby Union ended its three-month search for Michael O’Connor’s replacement on Tuesday by announcing Welshman John, who has been in charge of the Canadian Sevens team since 2010.
The 51-year-old will have just a month in the job before leading Australia’s Commonwealth Games campaign in Glasgow, however his overriding focus is on the Olympic qualification period for Rio which begins in October.
John won’t officially start until June 23, but said he would immediately begin negotiations with the ARU and Super Rugby clubs about availability of players for the Commonwealth Games.
Queensland Test flanker Liam Gill, a Sevens silver-medalist from the last Comm Games in Delhi, is one of several Super Rugby stars hoping to be included for Glasgow.
But the Reds and other franchises around the country are concerned about relinquishing talent to the Sevens program before their season has finished.
John said the Sevens were aiming for an unprecedented new era of professionalism and he hopes star players outside the centrally contracted program will get a chance to join the squad for the Glasgow campaign and then for the road to Rio.
“It’s a pretty hot topic of conversation at the moment and the first thing is to get down to Australia and find out what the high performance agreements are with the ARU and Super teams,” John told AAP.
“There’s no denying there’s a lot of very good players around who could make very good Sevens players … you want the best players and the strongest available team.
“But you can’t just turn up at an event and hope to play it. We’d need to have a fully detailed outline and structured program put in place.
“To get a Super player, we need to make sure Super Rugby teams would look at the Sevens program and deem it as a majorly high performance program which is an excellent program for players to be involved in.”
When O’Connor announced he was stepping down in February, ARU chief executive Bill Pulver declared he’d search the world for a new coach, with Sevens experience hard to come by.
John’s achievements with the unheralded Canadians over the past 12 months as well as his desire for taking on the challenge of the Australian job impressed ARU officials, who have centralised the Sevens program 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.
John admits he won’t have time to reinvent the wheel before the Commonwealth Games, and will focus on building a relationship with players.
He believes Australia’s young squad of battlers can improve by the program reducing the high turnover of players.
“I’m looking forward to continuing (O’Connor’s) hard work with the players in a centralised environment which is something fairly new,” he said.
“There’s not going to be huge changes.”