After disappointing fifth- and sixth-place finishes the last two years on home soil, the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team looks to impress this weekend in Langford, B.C.
“We chose Langford as the event that we wanted to target,” coach John Tait said.
“This year I think we’re just a little bit more mature as a group,” he added. ”I think we’re a stronger (squad of) 12 than we’ve ever been. We’ve got more depth across the board even though we’re younger.”
The first two editions of the home tournament have been disappointing. Canada went 3-0-0 on Day 1 both times but then lost in the Cup quarter-final.
“Some hard lessons. Hopefully we’ve learned from them,” said Tait. “I think Year 1 we were a bit over-excited and it cost us in the quarter-final against England (in a 12-5 loss).”
Tait blames himself for last year’s quarter-final collapse against France, saying he took out “the spine of the team” some 30 seconds too early. The French rallied from 12-0 down in the last two minutes to win 14-12.
After four of the six events on the World Series circuit, Canada stands third overall with 64 points behind New Zealand (76) and Australia (66).
Canada, looking to become the first host nation to win an event on the women’s circuit, is in a pool this weekend with No. 5 Russia, No. 7 France and No. 11 Brazil.
Despite the last-second loss in the Japan final, Tait says Canada comes home in fine form.
Leading 14-7 and then 14-12 with under 50 seconds remaining, Canada’s Jen Kish made an uncharacteristic mistake at a Black Ferns restart. After the ensuing scrum, New Zealand’s Michaela Blyde scored in the corner for a 17-14 win.
“We made a little hard work out of it and then New Zealand showed their class with the two late tries to steal it again from us,” Tait said of the Japan final.
Still Tait says Canada is playing “probably at a pace we’ve never played before.”
“It’s a chance to play at home and the girls are really excited to try and bring that form into Langford,” he added.
It was New Zealand’s third tournament triumph this season, following victories in Dubai and Las Vegas. Canada won the other event in Sydney.
Olympic champion Australia, last season’s World Series winner, was runner-up in Dubai and Las Vegas.
Since losing to Australia in the semifinal of last season’s final event (won by Canada) in Clermont, France, the Black Ferns have lost just once in 25 games — a 19-12 decision to the U.S. on Feb. 4 in Sydney — and arrive in Canada on a 13-match win streak.
Tyla Nathan-Wong takes over the New Zealand captaincy in the absence of Sarah Goss and three others — including strike runner Portia Woodman — due to 15s commitments. Australia, bolstered by the return of co-captain Sharni Williams, has brought a strong team to Canada.
England, eighth in this season’s standings, beat New Zealand 31-14 in last year’s Langford final.
Caroline Crossley returns to the Canada squad after missing out on Japan. She comes in for Sara Kaljuvee.
Pool A features New Zealand, England, the U.S., and the Netherlands, an invitational side. Pool C consists of Australia, Fiji, Ireland and Spain.
Britt Benn, Guelph Redcoats, Napanee, Ont.; Caroline Crossley, Castaway Wanderers, Victoria; Hannah Darling, Peterborough Pagans, Warsaw, Ont.; Bianca Farella, Town of Mont Royal, Montreal; Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints, Sarnia, Ont.; Jen Kish, Edmonton Rockers, Edmonton; Ghislaine Landry (capt.), Toronto Scottish, Toronto; Megan Lukan, unattached, Barrie, Ont.; Breanne Nicholas, London St. Georges, Blenheim, Ont.; Ashley Steacy, Lethbridge Rugby Club, Lethbridge, Alta., Natasha Watcham-Roy, Hull Volant, Gatineau, Que.; Charity Williams, Markham Irish, Toronto.