Canadian women look to defend rugby sevens title in Sydney

Canada opens defence of its Sydney women’s rugby sevens title on Thursday.

The Canadian women defeated the U.S. 21-17 in last year’s final. It marked the third World Rugby Sevens Series championship for the Canadians, joining the Amsterdam Sevens in 2015 and Clermont Sevens in 2016.

“No extra pressure,” Canada coach John Tait said in a statement. “We know that last year really doesn’t mean much when we kick off the tournament. Sydney is a great venue and atmosphere so we will just do our best to enjoy the opportunity to compete again.”

Tait’s team opens against No. 11 Fiji before facing No. 9 Ireland and No. 3 Russia, all at Allianz Stadium.

Australia won the season opener in Dubai, defeating the Americans. Defending World Series champion New Zealand was a disappointing fifth.

The Canadians were fourth in Dubai, going 3-0 on the opening day and dispatching France in the quarterfinal before losing 25-7 to Australia in the semifinals and 10-5 to Russia in the bronze-medal match.

The lone change in the Canadian squad from Dubai sees Olivia Apps coming in for Emma Chown.

“Olivia is a tenacious young player, much like Kayla Moleschi in her approach,” Tait said. “She still has a lot of development in her but we want to give her a taste of the (World) Series level and all that goes with it and get a real measure of her there.”

Bianca Farella and Charity Williams are both continuing their recovery from September shoulder surgery. Kaili Lukan, a former college basketball player who was expected to have a big season alongside sister Megan, is out for the year after injuring her anterior cruciate ligament. Sara Kaljuvee is also injured.

The men’s portion of the Sydney competition kicks off Friday.

Canada, seventh overall after events in Dubai and Cape Town, is in a pool with No. 6 Australia, the No. 12 Americans and No. 13 Scotland.

Defending World Series champion South Africa won in Dubai while New Zealand took Cape Town. The Blitzboks won in Sydney last year, beating England in the final.

Canada Women’s Sevens Roster

Olivia Apps, Aurora Barbarians, Lindsay, Ont. Britt Benn, Guelph Redcoats, Napanee, Ont. Caroline Crossley, Castaway Wanderers, Victoria Hannah Darling, Peterborough Pagans, Warsaw, Ont. Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints, Sarnia, Ont. Jen Kish, Edmonton Rockers, Edmonton Tausani Levale, Abbotsford Griffins, Abbotsford, B.C. Ghislaine Landry (capt.), Toronto Scottish, Toronto Megan Lukan, unattached, Barrie, Ont. Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake Rustlers, Williams Lake, B.C. Breanne Nicholas, London St. Georges RFC, Blenheim, Ont. Natasha Watcham-Roy, Hull Volant, Gatineau, Que.

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