The Canadian men’s sevens squad is hoping to better their placing from the last Rugby World Cup in 2013.
Canada finished ninth, even though they had a record of 5-1 at the Cup, but because of the format were not in the top bracket, and were unable to compete for a medal.
Head coach Damian McGrath said the expectations for his team are high, but thinks a top eight finish would be an accomplishment considering the size of the team and injuries.
“I think we need to just have some calm amongst the euphoria going to the Cup,” he said. “Like any team and any competitive nature, we’re going [there] to win, but we’re also being realistic about our ambitions.”
Since the last Cup, McGrath said the game has gotten faster, there are more specialist players and the athletes are bigger and stronger, so Canada will need consistent play to hang with the bigger teams. He said the “true Canadian grit” of his team shouldn’t be overlooked and if they play to their strengths they can make a run at it.
“It’s a chance to pit yourself against the best of the 23 teams in the world in an iconic venue,” McGrath said.
Harry Jones, Canada men’s sevens captain, was part of the team at the last Cup, and he’s ready to head to San Francisco and get to work, in what will be their 54th week of their season.
Jones said they have many experienced players on the team headed to the Cup, as they did in 2013.
“Damo’s almost been able to pick from a full healthy squad, barring a few guys, with a few setbacks,” he said. “Being able to bring almost a full strength squad is absolutely massive because then you’re not riding the same seven or eight guys the entire time.”
With everyone at full strength, Jones said getting everyone touches and sticking to a simple game plan will help them against their first pre-round of 16 game against Papua New Guinea. Jones feels McGrath has put each player in the right spot for individual and team success.
This Cup Canada also has a different strategy, playing a tighter game to expose the gaps and spin it wide, rather than the wide-wide game they used to play.
Jones himself has around 20 family members coming to watch him play. He enjoys seeing the Canadian flags in the crowd, but it also makes him think about kids watching back home and what it means to compete on the world stage.
“To watch a Canadian team compete at the top level and say ‘At some point in my life, I might be able to do that if I continue playing rugby,’ I think that’s a really cool thing,” he said.
“They might not have had that in the past, because the platform wasn’t quite there years back, but now the platform’s set for younger kids.”