Canada’s women’s rugby sevens team arrived at Swartz Bay ferry terminal on Tuesday ahead of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens tournament in Langford this weekend.
The team was travelling from the Bahamas, where they clinched a spot at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in South Africa with a win over Mexico in the final of a qualifying tournament. They have a week of rest and training before the matches kick off on Saturday at Starlight Stadium.
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“It’s a new group of players (a couple of whom) have been to the Olympics and we’ve got players that have played university or are only a few months out of high school and that, to me, builds its own excitement. The players get to learn about who’s left and right of them and get to see the game in a way now as a collective rather than as individuals,” said head coach Jack Hanratty.
Canada was dominant at the Rugby Americas North tournament in the Bahamas, scoring 265 unanswered points across their five games. The weekend allowed the team to get a good block of training in, said veteran Elissa Alarie, who also plays for Westshore RFC in Colwood.
“We understand that they’re weaker, but we still tried during those games to play like we were playing more of a test match, sometimes slowing it down, trying other plays and stuff. So I think that the momentum is just building and we’re ready for a higher level now,” she said.
Alarie added the squad has been rebuilding in recent months with new players coming in to fill holes left by the retirements of a number of players after the Tokyo Olympics last summer. Rugby Canada as a whole is in a rebuilding process after the high-performance review report was released in March, and a new chief executive officer was announced earlier on Tuesday.
“The high-performance review came out and it was a difficult reality for us. But it’s a reality. We can either sit there and worry about the past or we can try to develop a new future. That’s what our goal is, and this is the first time that this group will get to perform in front of a home crowd. Since that review, we get to show that we’re putting our best foot forward,” Hanratty said.
“It’s a game of sevens, but we’re hoping that (the home crowd) will be an eighth person when possible,” he added.
The team will be in action on Saturday against Mexico, Spain and world number-one ranked Australia. The day’s opening game – USA vs. Fiji – gets underway at 9:30 a.m., with Canada’s first match set for 10:58 a.m. against Spain. Playoff action begins at 10 a.m. Sunday.
General admission tickets are still available online here.