Sandro Fiorino elevated from interim to head coach of Canada women’s rugby team

TORONTO — Rugby Canada made it official Tuesday, confirming Sandro Fiorino as head coach of the Canadian women’s rugby team.

The 46-year-old Fiorino had been serving as interim coach since last November, taking over after Francois Ratier left to become head coach of Rugby Canada’s national fifteens academy in Langford, B.C. Ratier recently left that job to become Rugby Quebec’s director general and technical director.

Fiorino remains head coach of the Toronto-based Canada Sevens Academy, charged with identifying and nurturing next-generation talent.

“I think both will work well together — working with the younger athletes and developing (them) through the system and giving them a good platform either to go to sevens or 15s in the next couple of years,” he said in an interview.

In other Rugby Canada news, Jack Hanratty was named women’s under-20 coach. The U-20 women are scheduled to face their English counterparts in a three-game series in Nova Scotia in August.

Fiorino inherits a team in transition after a fifth-place finish under Ratier at the 2017 Women’s World Cup. Veterans like captain Kelly Russell have retired. The Canadian 15s women are the lone Rugby Canada senior side that is not centralized.

Not all the veterans have moved on. Fiorino can count on the likes of Laura Russell (Kelly Russell’s sister) Elissa Alarie, Andrea Burk, Magali Harvey, Lori Josephson, Daleaka Menin, Cindy Nelles and Karen Paquin.

A young Canadian side lost three games to England last November on tour by margins of 79-5, 49-12 and 69-19.

The Canadian women are currently ranked fourth in the world behind No. 1 New Zealand, England and France.

Fiorino was an assistant coach with the Canadian women’s sevens squad that won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He has also coached the women’s under-20 team.

His relationship with women’s sevens coach John Tait could lead to more movement between the sevens and 15s squads, although that may depend on the proximity to major events like the Olympics.

While based in Toronto, Fiorino has help across the country in the form of assistant coaches Maria Gallo (B.C.), Dan Valley and Jen Boyd (Ontario) and Kevin Rouet (Quebec). He will also be assisted by Hanratty (Atlantic) and under 18 coaches Ricky Coombe and Duncan McNaughton.

First up are evaluation camps May 16-20 at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and May 23-27 at Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island. The Canadian women have already confirmed two matches with England in November, with others perhaps against Scotland and Wales.

The camps will feature 70-plus women.

“I want people to have an opportunity to put their hand up and see where they’re at,” said Fiorino. “And it also gives me a chance to see where the program’s at, looking at the gaps compared to the top three or four teams in the world.”

The next Women’s World Cup is scheduled for 2021. The host country has yet to be determined.

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