After reaching new heights with a silver medal at the Women’s’ Rugby World Cup, the Canadian national team is out to validate their success.
On Canada Day they will host Team U.S.A. at Titans Park at 6:30 p.m. for the second leg of the three game Women’s Rugby Super Series. Also playing will be the New Zealand Black Ferns against England at 4 p.m.
The series represents the first action for Team Canada since falling 27-9 to England in the gold medal game at the World Cup on August 17, 2014 in France.
“This past year has been awesome, just the amount of exposure the sport has got all over Canada, because so many had access to watching the World Cup so it put so much more emphasis on it,” said Team Canada captain Laura Russell. “For the players coming in there is so much more excitement coming up and we’re really looking forward to this tournament coming up. We’re starting to rebuild immediately and looking forward to 2017.”
There has been a bit of turnover on the roster since that gold medal game, with just 13 players back from that team. Hopes are, however that it will help them get even better for the 2017 World Cup in Ireland.
One of the big changes was elevating Russell to captain this past Tuesday.
“It’s an absolutely huge honour, I am so proud and so honoured to be able to represent those amazing ladies we have on the field,” said the 26-year-old prop who has 13 caps for Canada. “I try to lead by example and keep everybody organized and calm and have every aspect of the game covered and keep everything running smoothly.”
Canada lost the first leg of the Super Series 40-22 to New Zealand on Saturday in Calgary.
Olivia DeMerchant, Andrea Burk, Latoya Blackwood scored tries for Canada in the loss for Canada, who fell behind 18-5 in the first half, but got it back to 18-12 at the break. The Black Ferns, however, pulled away in the second half.
“It wasn’t the result we expected but for us it was our first game in nearly a year,” said Canadian head coach Francois Ratier in a press release.
Russell is hoping for a much better game on Wednesday against their arch rivals, imploring fans to come dressed in red especially considering it is Canada Day.
“It couldn’t be a better atmosphere to walk into,” she said. “The Americans always come out really hard, they like to play up in your face and try to take us down early.
In Canada we like to move around the field with a completely different style but hard up in your face. It should be a good battle for sure.”
She adds this is a special opportunity for the club to tour in Alberta and hopes to continue to help the sport grow in the province.
One of the more recent developments in the sport is the inclusion of rugby in the Olympics, though just the seven-man version of the game. Red Deer’s Paige Farries plays for Canada’s Women’s 7s.
Still Russell says it all help build the sport.
“It’s so exciting, you can see it across Canada, everyone is building and all of the programs are coming up and we’re getting more exposure and better athletes and better staff around us, it’s really exciting,” said Russell.
The series wraps up in Edmonton on July 5 against England, giving them a chance for some World Cup retribution.
“You have to also look at so many positive things happened and so many great things for womens rugby in Canada happened, ,”said Russell. “But you also look at it as an athlete with the disappointment, but you build on that and create and build off that success as well.”
Tickets for Wednesday games are available through www.rugbycanada.ca