Sean White

Canada gain core status, crack world’s top-15 in rugby sevens

Canada's men's and women's teams find success at Hong Kong rugby sevens tournament

Despite winning multiple trophies in recent years, Canada’s attended only half of the IRB World Series rugby sevens events since losing “core status” in 2009.

That changed on the weekend when Canada finished first place in a qualifier tournament to see which countries would gain core status as the IRB expanded the World Series from 12 to 15 countries. IRB created a qualifying bracket at the Hong Kong tournament with Canada finishing first, Spain second and Portugal third.

It means next year Canada will compete at every IRB event (sevens tournaments are full day events, jamming full size stadiums for entire weekends) in the 2011-12 series: Australia, Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, Japan, Scotland and England. It’s a massive step for Canada, which won the 2011 Pan-Am rugby sevens in Guadalajara, as it readies for the sevens’ debut at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“We knew what we had to do and we knew what the status was in terms of how to become a core team,” said Canada’s coach Geraint John. Canada ended the Hong Kong tourney as it defeated Spain for the second time on the weekend to earned promotion to the core 15.

“We decided that one thing we weren’t going to talk about was the word core. All we said was we were going to try to win a tournament. That was the big emphasis all weekend. That was a deliberate thing we did.”

Canada was first in its group after the pool stage, and was clutch on Day 3, beating Russia 24-7 in the quarterfinal,  beating Portugal 14-2 in the semifinal and winning 22-5 over Spain in the qualifying.

Canada carried a roster with many Victoria connections: Oak Bay High grad and James Bay player Sean White, UVic Vikes Sean Duke and Nathan Hirayama, James Bay player John Moonlight and Castaway Wanderers players Nanyak Dala, Ciaran Hearn and Chauncey O’Toole, who now plays elite pro rugby for the Ospreys in Swansea, Wales.

Duke scored a hat-trick of tries in the final.

Women’s sevens

Canada’s women’s sevens team, the current World Challenge champions, was unable to recapture the podium, falling in the semifinal to England in Hong Kong.

The Langford-based squad features Velox Valkyries back row Barbara Mervin.

High school boys go undefeated

B.C.’s elite youth sevens under-18 men’s team was undefeated in the Standard Chartered Bank Hong Kong International Youth Sevens tournament on March 22 to capture its second international championship of the 2012 season.

B.C. scored 22 tries in four matches and surrendered zero points. Opposition in the eight team tournament was made up of sides from Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.

B.C.’s under-18 sevens team featured Victoria’s Fergus Hall (Glenlyon Norfolk School) of the Castaway Wanderers, former IRB sevens star and national team coach Shane Thompson as head coach and former national sevens coach and current UVic Vikes head coach Doug Tate as manager.

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