Team Canada’s Sara Kaljuvee does her best to sidestep a tackler during an international women’s rugby sevens match earlier this season. She’ll be back from injury for this weekend’s Canada Women’s Sevens tournament in Langford.

Hard-hitting, fast-paced rugby action coming to Langford

Home side looks to rock on day 1 of Canada Women’s Sevens, crank it up for playoffs Sunday

As Langford opens its doors to the world for the Canada Women’s Sevens rugby tournament this week, the Canadian team is eyeing the top rung of the ladder in advance of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Sitting in a tie for second overall with Australia in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series after placing third last month in Atlanta – the top four series finishers automatically qualify for Rio – the Canadian players could be forgiven for dwelling on the one that got away down in Georgia.

The Canadians came the closest of any team to beating series leader New Zealand in Atlanta, dropping a narrow 24-22 semifinal decision to the Kiwis, who went on to humble the Americans 50-12 in the championship game at the third of six rounds of this Olympic qualifying series.

While he’s impressed with the improvement he’s seen in his Langford-based squad over the course of the series, Canada head coach John Tait is cautiously optimistic about the how that result might affect future meetings between the teams.

“That was only our second game against them this year, but both games have been very competitive,” he says. “I think we match up well with them. What I’m pleased with most is we can trade blows with them offensively.”

The semifinal match saw the Canadians leading or tied for most of the game, but as Tait points out, the sevens game is so fast-paced that the flow of a match can change in the blink of an eye.

“We took a step forward at Atlanta. I think it’s not a matter of if, it’s when we beat them.”

But first, there’s a lot of important rugby to be played ahead of any possible rematch during round four this weekend at Westhills Stadium. The host team joins the U.S., South Africa and Russia – Canada beat them 28-17 for third at Atlanta – in Pool C. Saturday’s 12:50 p.m. opener for Canada is a rematch against Russia.

Meanwhile, New Zealand lines up in Pool A with England, Fiji and Spain, while Pool B groups Australia, France, Brazil and China.

“We’re not looking much beyond our own pool,” Tait says. “Three of the top four teams (in the series) are all in one pool. We’ve been really focused on that.”

Results on the first day are critical to where teams are slotted in for Sunday’s playoff action. The top two teams from each of the three pools advance to the quarter-finals, as well as the top two finishing third-place sides. Scoring as often as possible is the best way to secure good placement for Sunday, which means a quarter-final match against one of the third-place pool finishers, Tait says.

“Every possession counts. That ball – when you don’t have it – you’ve got to do everything within your grasp to get it back,” he says.

Without a doubt, the Canadians will be watching the others’ results Saturday to determine strategy for late-round games, he adds.

From a fan perspective, when the pressure and the speed of the game go up, the entertainment factor goes up as well. “If you want to be successful in sevens, you’ve got to play that fast-paced game.”

While Team Canada is filled with superb athletes, some of the best at mixing the speed and power game are Ghislaine Landry and Ashley Steacy.

Landry, from Toronto, has used her catlike agility and reflexes to amass 151 points in the first three rounds, second only to New Zealand’s Portia Woodman with 165. Lethbridge native Steacy, whose siblings James and Heather are already qualified for Rio in their sports, may not have size or her side, but she packs a punch, Tait says in an interview with Canada’s Olympic program website.

“She’s got a ton of courage. She’s our smallest player but definitely one of our hardest hitting players,” he says. She is really evasive and that, combined with her ball-handling skills, makes her a real threat.”

This weekend Canada is without star captain Jen Kish, who was injured in the first game in Atlanta. The native of Ottawa, a finalist for the 2013 IRB Women’s Player of the Year award, is recovering well and will likely be ready for the next round, Tait says.

For more information on the series, visit worldrugby.org/womens-sevens-series/media. For more about Team Canada, head over to rugbycanada.ca and click on Women’s 7s.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

VicPD seeks person of interest after short-term rental ransacked

Combined losses for damage and theft are over $5,000

Whitecaps favourite switches to the Island

Marcel de Jong worked to end Whitecaps contract, joining Pacific FC on the ground floor

RCMP ask for public’s help to determine cause of weekend fire

RCMP are investigating the cause of the South Island Concrete fire

UVic’s cutting-edge centre leading the way in drones and AI

Centre For Aerospace Research works with partners including Department of National Defence

Langford barber shop donates cuts for veterans’ cause

Hair cuts raise funds for Wounded Warrior Run, which travels from Port Hardy to Victoria

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

B.C. man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

Most Read