Canada off to fast start in Tokyo Olympics women's rugby

They certainly looked focused.

Throwing off a year of upheaval in their Langford base — from a COVID outbreak to a coaching change — the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team opened in the Tokyo Olympics with a 33-0 victory over Brazil on Wednesday.

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“It was so good. It’s been such a build-up,” said team captain Ghislaine Landry.

“We’ve been in the Village for about a week now. We’re just so happy to be on the field playing together and I’m pretty happy with that first performance.”

Canada, however, looked tense and was slow to get rolling.

“Credit to their speed and ­fitness — [Brazil] made us work really hard,” said Landry.

“At half time we talked about going 100 per cent and you saw that in the second half.”

A players’ revolt in Langford this spring led to the departure of head coach John Tait of Mill Bay, who guided Canada to the Olympic bronze medal at Rio 2016. The players were not satisfied by the results of an independent investigation commissioned by Rugby Canada that looked into their complaints of bullying and harassment and found no protocol breaches.

Mick Byrne, a well-travelled 62-year-old Aussie and grandfather, assumed the role of interim Canadian head coach through the Tokyo Olympics. Byrne has been specialty coach with New Zealand and Australia and has consulted with the Canadian women’s sevens team since 2012.

“He’s one of the best rugby coaches in the world,” said ­Landry.

“His knowledge is second to none. We are so fortunate he was able to step in and help us get here and elevate our game.”

Canada continues pool play against Fiji this morning and ­finishes off against France at 5:30 p.m. PT this evening.

The quarter-finals are in the wee hours Friday morning with the semifinals at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Friday evening. The medal round is in the wee hours Saturday morning.

Elsewhere, there was ­disappointment for tennis ­players Felix Auger-Aliassime and ­Gabriela Dabrowski, who lost their opening match of the mixed doubles competition Wednesday and officially ended Canada’s hopes for a tennis medal.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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