The Canadian women’s rugby sevens squad returns to the Sydney Sevens with good memories.
Canada was third at the event last season and won it all the season before.
“That gives the team that extra bit of excitement going into it because you’ve been there before. And you can get there again,” said coach John Tait.
The Canadians opened this season with a third-place finish in Glendale, Colo., before finishing runner-up to New Zealand in Dubai. Canada has won 10 of 12 matches this season, losing only to the Black Ferns.
“I like where we’re going right now,” Tait added.
New Zealand tops the season standings with 40 points, compiling a 12-0-0 record in winning Glendale and Dubai. Canada (34 points) is second ahead of the U.S. (32), Australia (28) and France (22).
“It’s really right,” said Tait. “This is by far the most competitive year.”
The top four teams at the end of the six-event season secure automatic qualification to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The only change in Tait’s lineup from Dubai is Keyara Wardley, who replaces Pam Buisa. Wardley, who turned 19 last Sunday, helped lead Canada to a bronze medal at the Youth Olympics in Argentina last October.
A healthy Canadian squad has allowed Tait to test his players’ form in scrimmages, both within the squad and against the U.S. prior to Christmas.
“Keyara has really been a consistent performer with whatever team she’s been with, whether it’s been our Maple Leafs (developmental team) or leading the under-18s down at the Youth Olympic Games this past year,” said Tait. “She’s a good young player with a big future.”
Bianca Farella has helped lead the way for Canada with 12 tries in 12 matches. Captain Ghislaine Landry leads the circuit with 73 points.
Australia made history at last year’s event, becoming the first men’s or women’s team to win a Series event without conceding a try or point. The Australian women blanked Spain 29-0, Papua New Guinea 50-0 and France 43-0 in pool play and Spain 29-0, Russia 31-0 and New Zealand 31-0 in the knockout round.
But the home team is missing Shannon Parry, Charlotte Caslick, Demi Hayes and Emilee Cherry. On the plus side, Emma Tonegato returns from shoulder surgery.
The women’s tournament runs Friday through Sunday with the men’s competition Saturday and Sunday. The women’s field includes the Series’ 11 core teams plus an invitational team, Papua New Guinea.
Canada opens pool play against No. 11 Fiji at Spotless Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park before taking on No. 7 Ireland and No. 6 Russia.
New Zealand is in Pool A with England, France and Papua New Guinea. Australia is in Pool C with the U.S., China and Spain.
The Canadian men, who moved up to 11th overall after finishing tied for seventh last weekend in New Zealand, are in a pool with the second-ranked Americans, No. 12 France and No. 13 Kenya.
Olivia Apps, Lindsay RFC, Lindsay, Ont.; Britt Benn, Guelph Redcoats, Napanee, Ont.; Emma Chown, Aurora Barbarians, Barrie, Ont.; Caroline Crossley, Castaway Wanderers, Victoria; Bianca Farella, Town of Mount Royal RCF, Montreal; Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints, Sarnia, Ont.; Sara Kaljuvee, Toronto Scottish, Ajax, Ont.; Ghislaine Landry, Toronto Scottish, Toronto; Kaili Lukan, unattached, Barrie, Ont.; Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake Rustlers, Williams Lake, B.C.; Breanne Nicholas, London St. Georges RFC, Blenheim, Ont.; Keyara Wardley, Okotoks Lions, Vulcan, Alta.; Charity Williams, Markham Irish, Toronto.