Canada's rugby women bare all for charity

The Canadian women's sevens rugby team is hot.

Its current world No. 2 ranking indicates the Langford-based program will likely be a factor when the sport makes its Olympic debut in the 2016 Rio Summer Games.

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But there's another reason.

The Canadian women's rugby fund-raising calendar - featuring both sevens and XVs players - is sure to raise the thermometer a few degrees. It features the semi-clad players in a tasteful celebration of the human body.

"Of course, there are some people who wish we did not have to do it, but that's OK," said Canadian sevens and XVs national team player Barbara Mervin, who was instrumental in creating the fund-raising vehicle.

"This is Canada. They [critics] have a right to their opinion and we have a right to do this," added Mervin, who plays club rugby with Saanich-based Velox.

The calendar, encompassing September 2012 to October of 2013, has proven popular. The calendar has only been out one month and Mervin said more than half the 5,000 printed copies have been sold. The goal is to sell all 5,000 and raise $80,000 for the women's rugby program with a portion that will also be donated to a women's charity to be announced at a later date.

The calendar was shot in the yoga studio at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence on the Camosun College Interurban campus.

"The reception to it has been great," said Mervin, who has 21 caps in XVs rugby and has played in seven IRB tournaments for Canada in sevens.

It's part of female rugby's growing profile, thanks to the sevens version now being an Olympic sport.

"There's a lot of excitement right now in sevens because of Rio 2016 and it's allowed us to access Own the Podium [federal Olympic funding] resources," said Mervin, a fashion designer in her civilian career and owner-designer of Aptoella rugby apparel.

"It's cool to be a part of it."

Especially after seeing the Olympic bump the Canadian women's soccer team received nationally following winning bronze at the recent 2012 London Olympics.

"We hope to give women's rugby a similar lift," said Mervin.

But with London 2012 barely cold, there is a lot of rugby yet to be played before Rio 2016. Last Sunday both Canada's men's and women's teams qualified for the 2013 Rugby Sevens World Cup.

"Rio is the big thing of this coming cycle but it's still four years away and four years is a long time," said Mervin.

At 30, Mervin realizes she must stay at the top of her game into her mid-30s in order to become an Olympian. That's not unusual in this era.

"To get to Rio would be incredible but I'm just focusing right now on the World Cup next year," said Mervin. "Anything can happen in a sports career, especially for women athletes if they want to have children."

The Canadian women's and men's sevens players - along with the national team XVs - are now based at the Rugby Canada Centre of Excellence in Langford.

The Canadian women's rugby calendar can be ordered at for $20.

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