Youthful host team look to make a statement at home at Canada Sevens
Head coach Jack Hanratty describes it as a “new franchise”. A lot has changed since the Canadian women’s team won the bronze medal in Rugby Sevens’ Olympic debut at Rio 2016.
Head coach Jack Hanratty describes it as a “new franchise”.
A lot has changed since the Canadian women’s team won the bronze medal in the Rio 2016 Olympic rugby sevens debut on Saturday and Sunday at Starlight Stadium.
“We’re a young, rebuilding team and we know that,” Hanratty said after a Thursday training session at Langford.
It’s a young team that gets a big opportunity at home this weekend as Canada open Group A at 11 a.m. against Spain on Saturday, followed by a 2 p.m. game against Mexico and a at 6 p.m. against HSBC World Series leader Australia.
“Saturday night at home [underdog] against the best team in the world Australia. That’s what dreams are made of…the kind of stuff they make movies about,” Hanratty said.
“We are delighted to show exactly where we are. The opportunity to play against the best teams in the world in front of a passionate Canadian crowd for this new group of talented players is such an electrifying prospect.
The hosts are certainly ready to take on the world’s elite in the 12-nation tournament.
“We are so looking forward to playing this weekend and using the home crowd to our advantage in a tight-knit stadium,” said Canada captain Breanne Nicholas.
“It has a really fun feel to it.”
And familiar, since the team is based in Langford, which is a plus.
“We train here day in and day out, so this venue feels very natural to us,” said veteran player Bianca Farella, one of the few remaining connections to the Rio 2016 Olympic medal-winning squad.
“We’re looking forward to the fans and feeling the energy from the crowd.”
Canada just won the Americas Regional Qualifying Tournament last weekend in Nassau, Bahamas to secure their ticket to the 2022 World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa. The other big event this summer is the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
“We’ll be looking to build on the momentum from last weekend’s qualifying,” Hanratty said.
Due to the ongoing pandemic travel restrictions Down Under, this will be the first HSBC World Series tournament of the season for reigning Olympic champion Tokyo, New Zealand.
“This is the best group of teams put together since last summer’s Olympics in Tokyo and it will be a real test for us against the best grassroots teams in the world,” Hanratty said.
“The [Americas regional qualifier] was exciting, but what we want to know is where we are in the world.
The Canadian team went through a tumultuous time after a review looked into complaints from some players about the alleged previous coaching culture at Langford.
“The team culture is the best it’s ever been,” said captain Nicholas.
“We look forward from here.”
Olympic medalist Farella added: “We are happy with the progress made and we feel that we are now on the other side.”
The 2022 Canada Sevens, the first held since pre-pandemic in 2019, opens at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with the United States kicking off against Olympic bronze medalist Tokyo, Fiji. The 14-minute matches follow each other in rapid succession throughout the day. The two best teams from each of the three groups, as well as the two best third teams, will qualify for the quarter-finals.
The medal rounds, starting with the quarter-finals, run all day Sunday until the final at 5 p.m.