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New generation takes the rugby reins for Canada at Dubai Sevens

Lachlan Kratz of Victoria is ­displaying his rugby ­versatility for Canada with double duty at the Emirate Dubai Sevens ­beginning today after being selected for the XVs national team’s recent fall Tests.
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Canada's Jake Thiel, left, jumps for the ball against Australia's Nick Malouf during the Challenge Trophy final at the World Rugby Sevens Series action in Vancouver, B.C., March 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms

Lachlan Kratz of Victoria is ­displaying his rugby ­versatility for Canada with double duty at the Emirate Dubai Sevens ­beginning today after being selected for the XVs national team’s recent fall Tests.

Cody Nhanala and Jarvis Dashkewytch will join Kratz in making their sevens debuts when Canada opens in a highly challenging Pool A with two-time defending Rio and Tokyo ­Olympic champion Fiji and also powers England and France.

Nick Allen, Thomas ­Isherwood and Elias Ergas are all on their first tours outside Canada.

Several key sevens veterans retired after leading Canada into the quarter-finals of the Tokyo Olympics. With Connor Braid of Victoria, University of Victoria Vikes legend Nathan Hirayama, Harry Jones of North Vancouver, Justin Douglas of Abbotsford and Conor Trainor gone, spots have opened for the next generation of aspirants at the national training centre in Langford.

Among the few remaining veterans is Jake Thiel, who will captain Canada in Dubai due to fellow-Olympian Phil Berna being out with injury.

“I came up under such great leaders like Hirayama, Braid, Jones and John Moonlight,” Thiel has said.

“The biggest thing I learned from them was how such incredible leaders they were off the pitch, as well. I look forward now to being a team leader. It’s a role I’ve not had since U-20. It’s an exciting new challenge.”

There’s also a passing of the torch in Langford on the Canadian women’s side following its hugely disappointing plummet to ninth place in the Tokyo Olympics after winning bronze in the 2016 Rio Games.

With some of the old guard stepping down following a chaotic year, including captain Ghislaine Landry, the time has come for the likes of former University of Victoria Vikes star Pamphinette Buisa and Victoria native and Queen’s University grad Olivia Apps to step up to inherit the leadership mantle along with Elissa Alarie, Breanne Nicholas and Emma Chown. It is their job now to mentor newcomers Renee Gonzalez of the UVic Vikes, Sabrina Poulin, Olivia De Couvreur, Nakisa Levale, Asia Hogan Rochester, Fancy ­Bermudez, Chloe Daniels and Krissy Scurfield.

The women’s tournament is 10 teams, compared with 12 for the men, and Canada opens in Pool B today along with Tokyo Olympic bronze-medalists Fiji, Britain, Ireland and Russia.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com