October 11, 2013 (ISN) – It’s been just over 100 days since Canada held the RWC Sevens Plate aloft in Moscow. Now it’s back to a new Series, starting on the Gold Coast of Australia.
That 19-12 win over Samoa was one that brought down the curtain on a pleasing year for Geraint John’s side, who had already secured core status for 2013/14.
But that largely successful campaign, which had a few highs and lows along the way, is now laid to rest for a team who set about improving in the new season.
Nine legs again stand between the fifteen core nations and glory as Australia host first before Dubai (November 29-30) and South Africa (December 7-8) follow.
Canada will, of course, be looking to stay well clear of the worrying relegation trapdoor and a resounding start on the Gold Coast would give them an early fillip moving forward. To help with that the squad has prepared meticulously, enjoying midweek practise games against Australia and New Zealand, which pleased John.
“These games help to get some structure and also to practise systems both in attack and defence,” he said, before highlighting how temperatures reaching 30°C have been taken into account. “In terms of hydration we test the players each morning before breakfast and we look at their weights again each morning and before and after every training session. This allows us to keep monitoring the players closely and it also gives them a better idea of what they need to do.”
Being in peak physical condition will be critical in that sweltering heat as tough group showdowns against Fiji, Wales and Portugal are scheduled for Day One.
So, the Canadians are almost ready to get their season underway. And for John, captain Nathan Hirayama and the squad, the talking is now done on the field.
Canada vs. Fiji – 11:58am local time (9:58pm ET/6:58pm PT)
First up for Canada is a match against last season’s third place side in the Series, who have a new head coach at the helm in the shape of Englishman Ben Ryan.
Canada faced the south sea islanders twice in last season’s World Series, winning one of those two matches in New Zealand and losing the other in Hong Kong.
One of the true Rugby Sevens greats, Fiji are one of nine teams to have changed their coach and John believes their squad will be keen to impress the new boss.
“I think Fiji will come to the game with their usual brand of entertaining rugby,” he said from Australia. “It is important for us to match them physically and to be in their faces and not to give them too much time and space. With Ben just coming in I’m sure the Fijian players will want to impress and we are their first game.”
The Fijians are the double defending champions of the Gold Coast tournament and will be hoping to make it a hat-trick of triumphs in Australia this coming weekend.
Canada vs. Wales – 3:36pm local time (1:36am ET/10:36pm PT)
Wales have been enjoying a positive build-up to the new season as victory at the Middleburg Sevens in South Africa saw them defeat the host nation in the final.
John’s charges took on the Welsh four times in 2012/13 but had little joy against them, going down in Dubai, New Zealand, Scotland and England in close games.
“They’re a very good, hard working team who play for each other and for their coach,” said John. “Again we have to make sure we stay to our structure and systems and defensively put them to the floor. Having watched them closely over the last few years they rarely make mistakes so you have to be patient.”
Canada vs. Portugal – 5:46pm local time (3:46am ET/12:46am PT)
The final fixture of the opening day will hopefully be one that leaves Canada with their Cup fate in their own hands as they take on a dangerous Portuguese team.
Canada eased past the European side 31-0 on the Gold Coast in last year’s opener but many nations, such as South Africa in Dubai, did fall to them during 2012/13.
And that threat is something coach John is aware of, saying that “every game is difficult and you have to be mentally and physically ready for each challenge.”
He added: “Again they are a team with a new coach in charge and again they will have players wanting to impress. They have had big wins over the past year and we must perform to our best (if we are to win). Portugal have some very good key players in their team but I have also been very impressed with their youngsters.”
Canada’s Roster for Gold Coast Sevens – (Club, CRC Team) Hometown, Province
- Connor Braid – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
- Nanyak Dala – (Castaway Wanderers/Prairie Wolf Pack) Saskatoon, SK
- Justin Douglas – (Abbotsford RFC) Abbotsford, BC
- Sean Ferguson – (UBC Thunderbirds/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
- Mike Fuailefau – (Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
- Lucas Hammond – (Toronto Nomads/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
- Ciaran Hearn – (Castaway Wanderers/The Rock) Conception Bay South, NL
- Nathan Hirayama, Captain – (UVic Vikes/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
- Harry Jones – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) North Vancouver, BC
- Pat Kay – (UVIC Vikes/BC Bears) Duncan, BC
- John Moonlight – (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Pickering, ON
- Pat Parfrey – (Swilers RFC/The Rock) St. Johns, NL
Senior Men’s Team Staff:
- Geraint John – Head Coach
- Isabel Grondin – Therapist
- Lorna Barry – Strength and Conditioning Coach
- Brian Hunter – Manager