Olympic qualification, relegation on the minds of Canadian 7s teams in Vancouver

The party is planned, but Canadians mean business.

Canada’s women’s and men’s rugby sevens teams aim to turn their respective seasons around when the HSBC Canada Sevens event kicks off in Vancouver at BC Place on Friday.

“Sevens is a party and BC Place – being there – is a party,” women’s head coach Jack Hanratty said in a recent interview with CBC Sports. “We feel like we’ve put on a good party. It’s (about) rugby first and foremost — the biggest thing I’m excited about is putting on performances that (are) the Canadian rugby public proud of.

“Some of our results weren’t (what) we would have liked, so now … we can show exactly what we’re working on.”

The next World Rugby Sevens Series stop — March 3-5 — will mark the eighth time the tournament has been staged in Vancouver, but the first time 12 women’s teams compete alongside the men.

“We’re very happy that the women can be a part of it this year,” interim men’s coach Sean White said.

“It’s always seemed a little strange to me to run two different tournaments … to bring them together now and really put Canadian rugby first is really exciting.”

Watch live coverage of the men’s and women’s tournaments beginning Friday at 12:05 p.m. ET on cbcsports.ca, CBC Gem and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android.

Canadian Women 10th with 3 races to go

After four of seven events this season, the Canadians sit 10th overall with 16 points. In Cape Town, South Africa they achieved their best result with eighth place – the team’s only quarter-final appearance in 2022-23.

Canada’s Olivia Apps, above, acknowledges it will be difficult to earn direct qualification to Paris 2024 via the World Series. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

New Zealand, winners of the last three tournaments, top the table with 78 points.

This season’s Women’s and Men’s World Series offer nations their first chance at Paris 2024 Olympic qualification for teams that finish in the top four, excluding hosts France.

Women’s co-captain Olivia Apps said her team’s main focus was earning a spot at the next summer’s games.

“Our goal for the year was definitely to qualify for the Olympics and finish in that top four (or) top five at the World Series,” Apps told CBC Sports. “That goal right now seems a little far for us.

“A lot of us get our energy from playing in front of our friends and family and playing in front of a crowd as big as it is in Vancouver, so I know everyone is really excited.”

WATCHES | Women’s World Rugby Sevens Series Sydney: Canada vs Brazil:

HSBC Women’s World Rugby Sevens Series Sydney: Canada v Brazil

Watch Canada play Brazil in the HSBC Women’s World Rugby Sevens Series stop in Sydney, Australia.

Women to feed off of Vancouver’s “crazy” crowd

Former Canadian women’s team captain Ghislaine Landry, who was honored at the Langford Sevens last year after retiring in 2021, is looking forward to seeing the team compete on one of rugby’s biggest stages.

“The Vancouver crowd is absolutely crazy,” Landry told CBC Sports. “It’s become one of the favorite (stances) of the series for a lot of players because of that, so for the women to play in front of all those fans is going to be an incredible experience.”

Landry believes the tournament could also provide the Canadian women with a valuable lesson as the focus could potentially shift to the alternate regional qualifiers for the Paris Games.

“Obviously they didn’t have the first half of the season that we expected or maybe they expected them to have, but they’re still a young team,” Landry said. “Now we’re starting to look at the regional qualifiers and it’s the experience they’ll get in these final tournaments of the season that will have a big impact on that and carry over into next season.”

The women’s team posted a season-best fifth in the competition at home and finished seventh overall in last year’s series.

Canada's Phil Berna runs with the ball during an HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series match.
Canada captain Phil Berna, above, says the threat of relegation is an added incentive for the men’s team to show up in Vancouver. (Don Mackinnon/AFP via Getty Images)

The Canadians are fighting to avoid relegation

As the Canadian women look to solidify their position in the top half of the table, the Canadian men face the threat of relegation.

Canada’s men are currently in 14th place, securing 19 points so far.

The World Series is reducing the number of men’s primary teams from 16 to 12 for the 2024 season in an effort to match the number of women’s teams and align with the format of the Olympics.

New Zealand, with two wins, lead the series this season with 107 points. The base team ranked 15th after the 10th round in Toulouse, France on May 12-14 will be relegated.

The teams ranked 12th, 13th and 14th at the end of the Toulouse stop will enter a four-team relegation play-off alongside the winners of the 2023 Challenger Series at the final round of the Series in London on 20-21 May.

WATCHES | World Rugby Men’s Sevens Series Los Angeles — Canada vs Uruguay:

HSBC World Rugby Men’s Sevens Series Los Angeles: Canada v Uruguay

Watch Canada play Uruguay in the HSBC Men’s World Rugby Sevens Series stop in Los Angeles.

“It’s a reality (and) adds a little spice to the season,” men’s captain Phil Berna told CBC Sports. “(We think about it all the time, but it’s a hell of a motivation.”

The Canadian men finished 10th in Vancouver last year and finished the season 14th overall.

“If I have to ask people to come fill the seats and make a bunch of noise, I will,” Berna said. “There’s nothing like running onto the field in a sea of ​​red with a whole crowd of family and friends cheering you on.

“A big finish in Vancouver is huge for our season. There are a lot of important points on the line so we need all the help we can get.”

Inspiring the next generation

The men snapped an eight-game losing streak last weekend in Los Angeles with a win over Uruguay to finish tied for 11th.

White, who takes charge of the team after Henry Paul stepped down as manager after three years in November, stressed that “managing possession” is key to the men’s success.

“I think sometimes our team … tends to turn the ball over a little bit,” White said. “We’re trying to control the ball a little bit more. You control the ball, you control the game.

“I would say we’ve definitely had a few hiccups, (after) a coaching change after the first tournament in Hong Kong, but we’re really building,” White said.

White also believes the men have an opportunity to influence the next generation of Canadian rugby at the Vancouver Sevens.

“I think the really beautiful part about the Vancouver Sevens is that it’s on television across the country and you can really inspire the next wave of Canadian rugby players.”

Hanratty is just as excited about the prospect of the upcoming party inside.

“With seven you shoot around the world and it’s in different time zones, so (some) people will (only) see results,” he told CBC Sports.

“Now we can make it front and center and we have to show exactly what we’re working on and exactly the (team) we want to be known for.”

Leave a Comment