Canadian men’s rugby sevens preparations go awry

This is not the way the Langford-based Canadian rugby sevens team envisioned its preparation for the last-chance Olympic qualifier for Rio, which takes place June 18-19 in Monaco.

Canada went 0-3 in pool play at the Paris Sevens with a 28-7 loss to Argentina and 33-12 defeat to the U.S. on Saturday, which followed the opening 42-5 loss to the host French on Friday at Stade Jean-Bouin.

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Canada is using the final World Series tournaments, this weekend in Paris and next weekend in London, as preparation for the last-chance Olympic qualifier which will decide the 12th and final berth into the Rio Summer Games.

Canada’s pool opponents in the Paris tournament — France, Argentina and the U.S. — have all qualified for Rio. The Canadians were hoping to make a statement against those nations, but fell far short.

“We are looking to build momentum to Monaco, where we want to peak,” Canadian head coach Liam Middleton said before the team left Victoria for Paris.

Richmond’s Nathan Hirayama, out of the University of Victoria Vikes program, scored Canada’s lone try against Argentina. Mike Fuailefau of Victoria, a graduate of St. Michaels University School, and Justin Douglas of Abbotsford scored the Canadian tries against the Americans.

Canada has been relegated to play Russia in the Bowl quarter-finals today. The match-up will be closely parsed because the last-chance Olympic qualifier is expected to come down to Canada, Russia or Samoa.

On the Canadian roster in Paris on Saturday were UVic Vikes graduates Hirayama and Lucas Hammond; Fuailefau, Sean White and Luke McCloskey, all from Victoria; Luke Bradley of Port Alberni; Adam Zaruba, Conor Trainor and Phil Berna, all of Vancouver; Admir Cejvanovic of Burnaby; Douglas from Abbotsford; John Moonlight of James Bay; and Matt Mullins from Belleville, Ont.

Also travelling with the team is Phil Mack, a key veteran from Victoria, who was injured at B.C. Place during the Canada Sevens in March. The Oak Bay High and UVic Vikes graduate is expected back next week for the London Sevens. It appears Canada will certainly need Mack for the Olympic qualifier.

The Langford-based Canadian women’s sevens team qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics based on its No. 2 world ranking last year. The current world No. 4 should be vying for a medal in Rio. The program continues its preparations at the London Sevens next weekend, with Elissa Alarie, Natasha Watcham-Roy and the starry Magali Harvey set to return from injuries.

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