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Baber loving life as Blues coach

Guinness PRO12 Editor

8 Nov 2011

Cardiff Blues interim coach Gareth Baber tells Matthew Stott that he is desperate to finish what he started by leading the club to the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs.


Joint-head coaches Baber and Justin Burnell, who took over the reins when head coach David Young joined London Wasps in the summer, were scheduled to have their positions reviewed after the 2011 World Cup.

Under their leadership, the Blues have lost five out of the last nine matches in all competitions, but an away 26-20 victory over Connacht could help their cause as former New Zealand coach Graham Henry and Shaun Edwards, who left London Wasps last week, are linked with a permanent head coach role.

The Blues are reportedly considering appointing a more experienced coach, but Baber believes securing at least a play-off position could keep him and Burnell in a job.

He said: “Absolutely (it could). We know that careers can be made or broken on things like this as well. Everyone knows that and that is what we are in.

“We are privileged to be doing what we are doing and we are working to ensure that we do put ourselves in a position, not just ourselves but the squad as well, because ultimately it is a group effort. It is important that we are all as one and progress as one.

“Certainly Justin and I want to stay in the positions that we are in. We enjoy this level of competition, we enjoy the challenge that it provides us as a pair, and the players are responding to it as well.

“I know people will talk all about one man taking it on and one person being in charge, but we’re cracking on with what we have to crack on with and it’s all about performances and developing the squad and getting results.

“We are all very passionate about what we do, and passionate about the Blues as well. It is a great club, we have both grown-up in the area and I think it is important that the players understand that as well and they understand where we come from for the people of the Blues region.”

Certainly the CVs of those linked with the Cardiff City Stadium make for a glittering read – Henry has just secured the All Blacks a first World Cup in 24 years while Edwards guided Wasps to four league titles and two Heineken Cups.

But without their World Cup stars including Sam Warburton and Jamie Roberts, the Blues have performed above expectations under Burnell and Baber and are currently fifth in the RaboDirect PRO12 league, but have played a game less.

And following a spirited 26-20 victory at Connacht, Baber believes two heads can work better than one.

 “Yes, it’s amazing being a coach here,” he added. “I do enjoy it. But Justin and I have worked together for the last six years. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses; we know each other’s boundaries 

“And when you get performances like you do out in Connacht and after 20, 30 minutes you are 17-6 down and then you see the response and the character of the group of boys that you are with everyday, and sometimes you have difficult times with these players as well, then you realise exactly why you do it.

“Victories like that create momentum in the squad and that is what you are after and that is what you chase.

“You are looking for things that you can improve and develop on. Our form in the season, certainly away from home, was good and we were positive in what we were doing.

“But we lost our way a little bit in home games more than anything. The away win against Connacht was a testament to the work the players have put in and the character of them.”