Team Canada’s Julia Greenshields finds an opening against Team New Zealand during cup final action at the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens at Westhills Stadium in Langford, B.C., on Sunday, May 28, 2017. New Zealand defeated Canada 17-7. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Confident Canada heads to Rugby World Cup

TORONTO — Canada heads to the Women’s Rugby World Cup ranked third in the world and believing it can take down the top two if it plays to its potential.

“I think we feel very prepared,” said veteran winger Elissa Alarie. “There’s this calm confidence that’s in the air.”

The Canadian women were beaten 21-9 by England in the final of the last World Cup three years ago in France. The two teams had tied 13-13 in pool play.

Canada, currently rated behind No. 2 New Zealand and No. 1 England, was slated to fly to Ireland late Wednesday after a sendoff Tuesday night in front of sponsors and supporters.

Canada has defeated England before. And while the Canadians have never beaten New Zealand in women’s 15s — or men’s 15 — play, coach Francois Ratier says he knows his team can down the Black Ferns.

“I’ve seen moments,” he said. “It’s there. And more important than me, (the players) realize that it’s there. We’re going to have the opportunity in a few weeks to make it happen.”

No. 4 France and No. 5 Ireland could also make some noise at the tournament, he believes.

Canada opens Aug. 9 against No. 23 Hong Kong before facing No. 10 Wales on Aug. 13 and New Zealand on Aug. 13 in the match expected to decide the pool winner.

All the games are in Dublin, with the pool matches — slated for smaller stadiums —already sellouts.

The three teams that top their groups plus the best second-placed side advance to the quarter-finals.

It’s a format with no margin for error. Four-time champion New Zealand failed to make the quarters last time out after finishing second in its pool thanks to a 17-14 upset loss to Ireland.

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