Canada is preparing to defend its Pan American Games titles in men’s and women’s rugby sevens. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada opts for blend of experience and youth for rugby sevens Pan Am teams

Some familiar faces will be missing as Canada looks to defend its Pan American Games titles in men’s and women’s rugby sevens.

Injuries and the desire to rest some veterans and to test young talent have all played a part in team selection for the games that start July 26 in Lima, Peru.

On the men’s side, Justin Douglas, Connor Braid and Lucas Hammond miss out through injury.

Veteran Sean Duke, Admir Cejvanovic, Luke McCloskey and Brennig Prevost come in for Andrew Coe, Mike Fuailefau, Matt Mullins and Jake Thiel, who were part of the Canadian team that qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by winning a regional qualifier earlier this month in the Cayman Islands.

“Selections for the Pan Ams were based on balancing game load as well as giving some others opportunities,” interim men’s coach Henry Paul said in a statement. “It was quite a heavy training block going into the Olympic qualifier and I’ve been working with the staff to give players who need it an extra bit of rest.

“This is also a chance for guys to put their hands up going into this Olympic year. There were some guys who had commitments with the U20 Trophy (tournament in Brazil) but it’s a good chance for development for other guys like Brennig Prevost on the big stage.”

The Canadian men will play in Pool B with Argentina, Uruguay and Jamaica.

“There’s 12 strong players going,” said co-captain Harry Jones “We’re leaving a few boys back at home just to get rested up that had a few niggles. We have a strong team, a team that can definitely get the job done. All the boys are excited to get down there.”

Kayla Moleschi will captain a young women’s squad missing Ghislaine Landry, Bianca Farella, Britt Benn, Karen Paquin, Charity Williams, Julia Greenshields and Keyara Wardley, all of whom were part of the team that finished third at the World Series stop in Biarritz, France, last month.

Only Moleschi, Caroline Crossley, Emma Chown, Kaili Lukan and Breanne Nicholas return from the France squad.

“We’ve got a great mix of talent on this Pan American Games team,” said Morgan Williams, the Canadian women’s assistant coach who will step in for head coach John Tait in Lima. “We have some exciting up-and-coming talent as well as World Series experienced veterans. This will be a great opportunity for exposure and experience on a big stage, especially as we look to build to Tokyo 2020.”

The women will face Brazil, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago in Pool B.

Matches will take place July 26-28 at the Complejo Deportivo Villa Maria del Triunfo.

Rugby sevens was introduced to the Pan Ams in 2011 for the men and 2015 for the women.

The Canadian men won gold in both 2011 and 2015, defeating Argentina in close finals (26-24 and 22-19). The Americans won the bronze both times, downing Uruguay.

Canada’s women thumped the U.S. 55-7 in the 2015 final in Toronto while Brazil blanked Argentina 29-0 for the bronze.

This season the Canadian women placed third, just behind the U.S., in their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings. Brazil and Mexico competed in just one of the six events on the women’s circuit.

The U.S. men finished second on the World Series circuit this season while Argentina was ninth and Canada 11th. Chile placed 17th but only took part in two of the 10 events.

Canada’s Pan Am Games Rugby Sevens Teams

Women

Delaney Aikens, Briercrest, Sask., UBC; Pam Buisa, Gatineau, Que., Ottawa Irish; Emma Chown, Barrie, Ont., Aurora Barbarians; Caroline Crossley, Victoria, Castaway Wanderers; Olivia De Couverer, Ottawa, Ottawa Irish; Asia Hogan-Rochester, Toronto, York Lions; Sara Kaljuvee, Ajax, Ont., Toronto Scottish; Tausani Levale, Abbotsford, B.C., Abbotsford RFC; Kaili Lukan, Barrie, Ont., unattached; Kayla Moleschi (apt.), Williams Lake, B.C., Williams Lake Rustlers; Breanne Nicholas, Blenheim, Ont., London St. Georges RFC; Temitiope Ogunjimi, Calgary, Calgary Hornets.

Head Coach: Morgan Williams.

Men

Phil Berna, Vancouver, UBC; Cooper Coats, Halifax, Halifax Tars; Admir Cejvanovic, Burnaby, B.C., Burnaby Lake RFC; Sean Duke, Vancouver, unattached; Nathan Hirayama (co-capt.), Richmond, B.C., unattached; Harry Jones ( co-capt.), West Vancouver, Capilano RFC; Isaac Kaay, Kamloops, B.C., UVIC; Patrick Kay, Duncan, B.C., Castaway Wanderers; Luke McCloskey, Cranbrook, B.C., Castaway Wanderers; Josiah Morra, Toronto, Toronto Saracens; Brennig Prevost, Victoria, Castaway Wanderers; Adam Zaruba, North Vancouver, Capilano RFC.

Interim Head Coach: Henry Paul.

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