LANGFORD, BC –Canada’s Women’s Sevens Team is back training at the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre on Vancouver Island ahead of their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Qualifying season on the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series
Head Coach John Tait has named his 24-player roster, which includes experienced veterans Captain Ghislaine Landry, Bianca Farella, Kayla Moleschi, Brittany Benn and Charity Williams, along with exciting up-and-coming talent from across the country.
Similar to the lead-in to the Rio de Janeiro games in 2016, this year’s circuit doubles as an official qualifier for the next pinnacle event in Japan in August 2020. The top 4 teams at the end of the six-tournament season next June in Paris will automatically qualify. While the remaining nations – except for the host country, Japan, who receive automatic qualification – will have to book their ticket through six regional competitions in 2019 along with a last-chance repechage tournament in 2020.
Canada will be looking to build off it’s disappointing, by their standards, fourth place finish on the series last season; In the six-year history of the World Series it was Canada’s first and only finish outside the top 3.
Once again, the top 12 women’s teams in the world will return to Westhills Stadium and the Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence in Langford, BC for the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens May 11-12. The highly-anticipated stop is always one of the fan-and-team favourite stops on the series, with over 6,000 fans expected throughout the weekend. Tournament and ticket information can be found at www.canadasevens.com
Q & A with Canada Head Coach John Tait
BK – Hi John, there’s a lot of new faces in this year’s training group. Tell me about the list of athletes that are centralized this year.
JT – “One of the positives that came from last season’s injuries frequency was it forced us to throw several of our development players into the World Series competition earlier then perhaps they were ready and now we have a healthy group with more depth and experience as a result at the start of this season. Players like Olivia Apps, Pam Buisa, Tausani Levale and Emma Chown have grown from that experience and, along with a few more will push the compete level within the series group. A couple of new faces we are excited about, Temi Ogunjimi who was a National level wrestler that we identified when she gave rugby (15s and 7s) a try at U of C the past couple of seasons. She has some great physical attributes with her speed and aggressive contact skills, she has the potential to fast track onto the world series. We also have two academy graduates, Olivia DeCouveur and Carmen Isyk, who have joined the senior group and will look to continue their growth this season.
BK – With Tokyo 2020 less than two years away, how crucial is this season for not only for qualifying but also development?
JT – “We are firmly focused on qualifying for Tokyo, everything else is a distant second. We do have some good fixtures and competition planned for our entire group though to keep everyone ready to compete and contribute towards taking one of those top 4 qualifying positions this season. We are also working closely with the Women’s National 15s program and their coaches to align our standards and we’re working together to get all of our top rugby players to get more quality opportunities to compete and ensure that Canada’s women’s’ programs continue to contest for medals.”
BK – With so many young players in this year's squad, how big of a role are the veterans (Landry, Farella, Benn, Moleschi) going to play?
JT – “Those senior players have been through an entire Olympic cycle so they are particularly familiar now with the business end of the cycle and the opportunity and pressure that it brings. It’s absolutely critical for us that our veterans continue to lead by example on and off the pitch.”
BK – Due to injuries, retirements and some mixed performances, last year was the first time that Canada has not finished in the top 3 on the World Series. How important is staying in the top 3 for confidence?
JT – “It was a disappointing outcome with how we placed last season, we have to keep perspective though, we just finished 2 points behind third place France who we beat 3 of the 4 times we played them. Also, the Japan leg really hurt us in not making the quarters for first time and with only 5 events that really limited our chance to get back from that result and stay in the top 3. Overall, we had a lot of valuable lessons in every game we played last season and although we didn’t get the overall results we set after, we will look to take from those learning opportunities.”
BK – Any changes to the daily training environment? And is the Youth Academy Program seeing results?
JT – “The biggest change of note is that we have aligned our centralized academy program to run more alongside our senior program. Along with that Sandro Foriono has been doing an excellent job of growing the academies in the east to develop a critical mass of young athletes pushing through the ranks. We believe that this will ensure we continue to produce players that can graduate into our National teams and keep us competitive on the world stage. We also have some great playing opportunities for them along and with them being around our senior group each day, learning from them and preparing to compete with them, will only expedite their growth. This is only going to grow the quality and depth of rugby athletes that will feed both our National 7s and our National 15s programs.”
Canada’s Women’s Sevens Team’s Centralized Training List:
Olivia Apps – (Lindsay RFC) Lindsay, ON
Britt Benn – (Guelph Redcoats) Napanee, ON
Pamphinette Buisa – (Ottawa Irish) Gatineau, QC
Fancy Chavez – (Nor’Westers) Edmonton, AB
Emma Chown – (Aurora Barbarians) Barrie, ON
Kendra Cousineau – (Niagara Wasps) Port Colborne, ON
Caroline Crossley – (Castaway Wanderers) Victoria, BC
Bethany Cudmore – (Barrie RFC) Barrie, ON
Olivia De Couvreur – (Ottawa Irish) Ottawa, ON
Bianca Farella – (Town of Mount Royal RFC) Montreal, QC
Maddy Grant – (Cornwall Claymores) Cornwall, ON
Julia Greenshields - (Sarnia Saints) Sarnia, ON
Carmen Izyk – (Foothills Lions Club) High River, AB
Sara Kaljuvee – (Toronto Scottish) Ajax, ON
Ghislaine Landry – Captain (Toronto Scottish RFC) Toronto, ON
Nakisa Levale – (Abbotsford Griffins) Abbotsford, BC
Tausani Levale – (Abbotsford Griffins) Abbotsford, BC
Kaili Lukan – (Unattached) Barrie, ON
Kayla Moleschi – (Williams Lake Rustlers) Williams Lake, BC
Breanne Nicholas – (London St. George's RFC) Blenheim, ON
Temitope Ogunjimi – (Calgary Hornets) Calgary, AB
Sabrina Poulin – (TMRRFC) St-Georges de Beauce, QC
Keyara Wardley – (Okotoks Lions) Vulcan, AB
Charity Williams – (Markham Irish) Toronto, ON
2018-19 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series:
October 20-21, 2018 – Colorado, USA
November 29-30, 2018 – Dubai, UAE
February 1-3, 2019 – Sydney, Australia
April 20-21, 2019 – Kitakyushu, Japan
May 11-12, 2019 – Langford, Canada
May 31 to June 2, 2019 – Paris, France