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Langford-based Canadian rugby sevens teams open World Series season

Canada earned its spot in the Paris Olympics through the North American and Caribbean qualifying tournament held over the summer at Starlight Stadium.
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Canada’s Charity Williams, centre, seen in a file photo from a match against Kenya in 2021, scored a try Saturday against the U.S. women’s rugby sevens squad. SHUJI KAJIYAMA/AP PHOTO

The Langford-based Canadian women’s rugby sevens team got their road to the 2024 Paris Olympics off to a promising start Saturday by reaching the quarter-finals of the season-opening HSBC World Series Dubai Sevens.

Canada lost 29-0 to France to start the tournament but rallied and got crucial tries from a pair of University of Victoria Vikes players, Krissy Scurfield and Carissa Norsten, in a 15-10 victory over the U.S. Norsten’s was her first World Series try. The other Canadian try came from Charity Williams, the last remaining player on the team from the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze-medallist squad.

Caroline Crossley of Victoria then scored in the 38-12 win over Spain to close out group play and book Canada a place in the quarter-finals against Ireland in a game that took place after deadline Saturday night.

Canada earned its spot in the Paris Olympics through the North American and Caribbean qualifying tournament held over the summer at Starlight Stadium.

Canada followed up by taking the silver medal last month in the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile. Nine players from the Pan Am Games team are in Dubai, including Scurfield and Norsten.

“We are excited about the 13 travelling [to Dubai], and know we also have a great group back home that is preparing for the season ahead,” said Canadian head coach Jack Hanratty, in a statement.

“The focus this month has been reconnecting as a group and assessing our Pan Am Games performances. Individual attacking strengths, as well as clarity in defensive roles has and will continue to be a theme for the group.”

The Canadian men’s team, also based in Langford, took eight of the 2023 Santiago Pan Am Games bronze medallists to the Dubai Sevens.

The Canucks gave world power New Zealand all it could handle in a 26-21 loss to open group play Saturday. Lachlan Kratz of Victoria scored a try as Canada was downed 35-14 by another world heavyweight, South Africa, in its second group game, followed by a 24-0 setback against Samoa.

“But that’s the game. It’s fast paced, relentless and unforgiving,” said Canadian team head coach Sean White of Victoria, in a statement.

“To match that, we’ve emphasized the execution of our core skills, being intentional in our roles and clinical accuracy in the contact area. Little things become big things and that has been our focus over the past two weeks.”

Canada, preparing for the last-chance qualifier next year for the Paris Olympics, also includes Jack Carson of Victoria and will play Great Britain in the consolation round this morning.

The Canadian men’s and women’s teams will move down to South Africa next week for the Cape Town Sevens, the second stop of the 2023-24 HSBC World Cup season.

That will be followed by the Perth Sevens in Australia from Jan. 26-28. The Canada Sevens runs Feb. 23-25 at B.C. Place.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com