Canadian women take silver in Dubai rugby 7s

The Langford-based Canadian women’s rugby sevens team made a timely statement Saturday by capturing the silver medal in the Dubai Sevens. It came with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics now rounding into view.

“This is obviously a big year and every weekend we come to play our best rugby for each other and for the girls back home,” said Canadian captain Ghislaine Landry.

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Canada went 2-1 in pool play and then beat France 19-7 in the quarter-finals and Australia 26-12 in the semifinals before losing 17-14 in a tight final against New Zealand.

“It was a great game and a great final,” said Landry.

Canada beat Russia 24-19 and Brazil 43-0 to start pool play in Dubai before being blown out 34-10 by the U.S. in a game that really stung.

“I am so proud of the girls to come off Day 2 [Friday] with not the result we wanted,” said Landry, the all-time leading scorer in World Series history.

“That wasn’t our best performance [against the U.S.] by any standard. We knew we had to, as a group, be ready on Day 3 and looking to perform. When we do that, we know we are one of the best teams in the world.”

The Canadians, who qualified for Tokyo 2020 by placing in the top four of last season’s World Series, proved that again Saturday with a roster that combined the familiar with the emerging. Veterans in Dubai from the 2016 Rio Olympic bronze-medallist team included Landry, Charity Williams, Karen Paquin, Kayla Moleschi, Bianca Farella and Brittany Benn. They were joined by six players from the Maple Leafs development squad, which played in last month’s Oceania Sevens in Suva, Fiji. They included Caroline Crossley of Victoria, Elissa Alarie, Emma Chown, Sara Kaljuvee, Kaili Lukan and the University of Victoria Vikes’Pam Buisa.

Landry and Benn were named to the seven-player tournament Dream Team in Dubai as Canada rebounded well following a disappointing sixth-place finish at the USA Sevens in October at Denver.

The Canadian men’s sevens team, also based in Langford, lost 40-17 Saturday in Dubai to defending Rio Olympic-champion Fiji in the ninth-place playoff. That came after beating Wales 31-14 and losing 19-12 to Samoa and 31-7 to New Zealand in pool play.

The Canadian men failed to qualify for Rio 2016 but are Tokyo 2020-bound after winning the North and Central American and Caribbean Olympic qualifying tournament last July in the Cayman Islands. But that was against regional minnows, not the sharks of the World Series

“This series is challenging stuff,” said Canadian head coach Henry Paul.

“We need to execute under pressure and get our details right.”

The Canadian men were led by Island veterans Nathan Hirayama, Mike Fuailefau and Connor Braid of Victoria and Pat Kay of Duncan. Hirayama and Harry Jones of West Vancouver co-captained Canada.

The next World Series events for both men and women are the Cape Town Sevens next weekend.

“There are a lot of positives to take out of Dubai,” said Paul, of the Canadian men’s effort.

“But we go into Cape Town knowing how difficult it is going to be. We have to keep improving.”

There are 10 men’s and eight women’s events in the 2019-20 World Series, which will decide seedings for the 12-team men’s and women’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic tournaments.

There are two Canadian stops, with the men’s Canada Sevens on March 7-8 at B.C. Place and the women’s Canada Sevens on May 2-3 at Westhills Stadium.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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