Paul John left Wales for Hong Kong last year. Pic: World Rugby.

Paul John Returns To Sevens World Cup, Nine Years On From Triumph With Wales

Paul John is a Welsh coach with World Cup glory on his rugby curriculum vitae.

The former scrum-half won 10 Test caps for his country and became a Pontypridd legend for his exploits at Sardis Road during a phenomenal playing career.

John has since gone on to become a fine coach, working with Pontypridd, Cardiff Blues and having a long stint in charge of Wales Sevens before moving on to his current role with Hong Kong Sevens.

It was his time with Wales Sevens that led to what was arguably John’s biggest success when his team secured Sevens World Cup glory in Dubai in 2009.

On the eve of this year’s tournament, which takes place in San Francisco from July 20-22, John has recalled his memories of that victory for the WRU website.

“We went to New Zealand and San Diego five to six weeks before the start of the tournament for a training block and that was invaluable,” he said.

“It’s not often you get that much preparation time with one team and it really paid off for us. In that period we played New Zealand in Wellington and beat them there which gave us real confidence.

“It meant that when we played them again in the quarter-finals of the tournament proper, there was no fear there and we could approach the game with confidence.

“With the same squad we pushed them all the way and came out on top.”

Wales went into the 2009 Sevens World Cup as 80/1 outsiders.


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But a combination of excellent preparation and superb on-field displays saw them seal a victory which shocked the rugby world but was also entirely deserved.

John’s side had finished second in Pool F after losing their decider 14-0 against Argentina, but went on to qualify for a Cup quarter-final spot as one of the two best runners-up.

A 31-5 win against Zimbabwe and a 27-0 victory over Uruguay did the damage and set up a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with New Zealand.

Buoyed by their warm-up victory over the same opposition, Wales came out with a famous 15-14 win as Tom Isaacs hacked on a loose ball and raced through to touch down in the final minute after earlier scores from Lee Williams and Richie Pugh.

Wales beat Samoa 19-5 in the semi-finals to set-up a rematch with Argentina in the final and this time the result was different as Aled Thomas scored the final’s crucial try.

“When we got to the latter stages all the favourites seemed to lose in the quarter-finals which was pretty freakish really,” John recalled.

“But it worked in our favour and once we had momentum, we carried it on. Argentina had beaten us on the first day, but when we faced them in the final it was different and we came on top. It was a brilliant memory and one I still cherish.”

Wales’ squad that year contained sevens specialists Pugh and Williams and was captained by Lee Beach. Former Cardiff Blues centre Dafydd Hewitt was also involved.

A young Rhys Webb and Aled Brew – now impressing with Bath in the Aviva Premiership – played their part too.

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John will coach Hong Kong Sevens in San Francisco this time around with his former assistant with Wales, Gareth Williams, now in charge of the country.

“The one thing that stands out for me looking back at 2009 was how lucky I was to have such a great squad and coaches to work with,” John said.

“David Jenkins played a crucial role as team manager, my assistant coaches Gareth and Richard Hodges were top class and Ben Searle was physiotherapist with Marc Kinnaird as analyst.

“Colin Hillman was like a mentor to us, Huw Wiltshire put us all together and it was just great to work with all these guys because they helped the players to perform.

“The players then went out and did it and it was a great result for everyone involved.”


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