Canadian women kick off high-profile rugby sevens season, looking to win it all - InfoNews

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Canadian women kick off high-profile rugby sevens season, looking to win it all

November 28, 2017 - 10:16 AM

His hand partially forced by injury, Canada coach John Tait has injected youth into his squad for the season-opening stop in Dubai on the 2017-18 HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens.

Bianca Farella and Charity Williams both had shoulder surgery in September and are not expected back until the Commonwealth Games in April. Kaili Lukan, a former college basketball player who was expected to have a big season alongside sister Megan, is out for the year after injuring her anterior cruciate ligament. Sara Kaljuvee is also injured.

That opens the door to 18-year-old Tausani Levale and 21-year-old Emma Chown, who will make their senior debut in the desert heat of Dubai where temperatures in the high 20s (Celsius) are expected for the women's competition Thursday and Friday.

The men kick off their campaign Friday in Dubai.

It's a big season for sevens with the Commonwealth Games (April 4-15 on Australia's Gold Coast) and the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens (July 20-22, San Francisco)

After Dubai, the women will take part in World Series stops in Australia, Japan, Langford, B.C., and France.

New Zealand dominated the 2016-17 circuit, taking five of six events. Canada won the other stop, defeating the U.S., in the Sydney final for its third ever tournament win (the others were Amsterdam in 2015 and Clermont in 2016).

Canada has finished in the top three in the standings five years in a row. The goal this season is to win it all, peaking for the Rugby World Cup Sevens where Canada was runner-up to New Zealand four years ago.

The Commonwealth Games are the team's third priority, mainly because of timing. The Games rugby competition goes April 12-14 while the Japan stop on the World Series is April 21-22.

"We'll probably be splitting the squad a little over those two (events) if we're tracking towards our first goal of wining the (World) Series," said Tait.

The Canadian women will be looking for a better start in Dubai this year. In the wake of a longer-than-normal break following the Olympics, Canada finished sixth in the season-opener.

That eventually cost them in the overall standings with Canada placing third on the season, two points behind Australia. Had they finished fifth in Dubai, the Canadians would have ended up second overall.

With just five stops on tour, there is no room for slip-ups this time around. Tait wants top-three finishes in Dubai and Sydney, with the hope that the team will keep climbing the rankings when some of the injured veterans return.

Canadian captain Ghislaine Landry, a finalist for World Rugby's women's sevens player of the year, looks to build on another banner year.

The 29-year-old from Toronto collected 269 points last season to lead the Series in scoring for the third season in a row. She scored her 100th Series try and became its all-time leading scorer with 844 points.

Landry made the tournament dream teams in four of six stops in 2016-17.

But while she wins plaudits for offence, Landry also deserves kudos for her defence, according to Tait.

"She's been one of the best sweepers in world rugby at the back," he said.

Tait calls Landry one of the most complete players — "if not THE most complete player" — on the circuit.

Last season was big for rising stars Julia Greenshields, Hannah Darling and Williams. Caroline Crossley, who made her Series debut two years ago in Dubai at the age of 17, is expected to raise her hand this year.

"There's no one like her on the World Series," said Tait. "She's one of the biggest, best athletes out there."

Canada plays Spain, Ireland and Fiji on Thursday. Fiji was fourth last season while Ireland was ninth and Spain 10th.

Canada

Britt Benn, Guelph Redcoats, Napanee, Ont.; Emma Chown, Kingston Panthers, Barrie, Ont.; Caroline Crossley, Castaway Wanderers, Victoria; Hannah Darling, Peterborough Pagans, Warsaw, Ont.; Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints, Sarnia, Ont.; Jen Kish, Edmonton Rockers, Edmonton; Tausani Levale, Abbotsford Griffins, Abbotsford, B.C.; Ghislaine Landry (capt.), Toronto Scottish, Toronto; Megan Lukan, unattached, Barrie, Ont.; Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake Rustlers, Williams Lake, B.C.; Breanne Nicholas, London St. Georges RFC, Blenheim, Ont.; Natasha Watcham-Roy, Hull Volant, Gatineau, Que.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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