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Langford-based Canada men's sevens advance to Olympic qualifying quarter-finals

Canada takes on Chile on Sunday morning
Canada’s Josiah Morra, left, and Cooper Coats tackle a Chinese player on Day 2 of the World Rugby Sevens Repechage at Louis II Stadium in Monaco on Saturday. MIKE LEE, WORLD RUGBY VIA CP

The math is brutally simple for the Langford-based Canadian men’s rugby sevens team heading into the quarter-finals this morning of the 2024 Paris Olympics last-chance qualifying tournament at Stade Louis II in Monaco.

Win three consecutive games today and Canada is going to the Olympic Games next month in the French capital. One loss means it’s all over and the team can start planning for Los Angeles 2028. Only the winner of the last-chance tournament will advance to the Paris Games and the Stade de France as the 12th and final Olympic qualifying team.

Canada kept alive its hopes by finishing 2-1 in Pool B on Saturday to qualify for a quarter-final berth against Chile. The winner of the Canada-Chile game will advance to a semifinal against the winner of a quarter-final match between South Africa and Uganda. The other quarter-final bracket features Great Britain against Tonga while Spain plays Hong Kong.

Canada, which opened with a 31-12 win over Uganda on ­Friday, rallied from a 14-0 deficit with five unanswered tries to beat China 33-14 before giving heavily-favoured and undefeated Great Britain all it could handle in a 17-12 loss to close out Group B play.

“It was always going to be a bit of a sticky group phase because everyone knows what it means and we’re three games away from the Olympics, so we’re in to a big day on Sunday, now teed up as well as possible,” Great Britain captain Robbie Fergusson said in a statement, after beating Canada.

“This is what everyone’s season comes down to. The Olympics is the pinnacle and it comes only once every four years, so for it to come down to one day [today] is pretty ruthless, but that’s sport at the end of the day.”

If Canada can advance past Chile in its all-Pan Am quarter-final, a formidable foe in the form of elite rugby nation South Africa likely awaits in the semifinals.

“We are aware of the challenges we will face and are ready to conquer them as they arise,” Canada head coach Sean White, the former sevens and XVs standout for Canada out of Oak Bay Secondary and James Bay, said in a statement.

Canada was a quarter-finalist in the delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021 with now-retired veterans such as UVic Vikes great Nathan Hirayama, Connor Braid of Victoria and Harry Jones of North Vancouver. A rebuilding Canadian side was redirected through the last-chance qualifier this time around for Paris 2024 by placing second to the U.S. in the direct North American and Caribbean Olympic qualifying tournament held last summer at Starlight Stadium.

The Olympics-bound world top-five Canadian women’s ­sevens team, meanwhile, ­continues its training in ­Langford for Paris. The ­Canadian women advanced by winning the North American and Caribbean ­Olympic qualifying tournament last August at ­Starlight Stadium.

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