by Mark Sheldon
October 22, 2013, LANGFORD, BC (ISN) – It has been an exciting year for Rugby Canada’s Women’s Program. In June, they took home silver medals at the Rugby World Cup Sevens. In July, they won the U-20 Nations Cup title, marking the first time in history England did not win the tournament.Also in July, Canada won bronze in Women’s Rugby Sevens at the 2013 Summer Universiade.
In August, the Senior Women’s Team also won their first Nations Cup title, again becoming the only nation other than England to capture the Senior Women’s Nations Cup.
“We have a good group of talented athletes that are continuing to develop their fitness and skills to be dominant on the international stage,” said Meaghan Howat, Manager of Women’s Rugby.
Many inside Rugby Canada point to the tireless efforts that go on at the Club, University and Provincial levels that have culminated in making these players available for selection.
“I think it is a tribute to the Provincial Unions and the development from the club level upwards,” said Howat.
More women are playing the game at University. Enrollment numbers are up at club level.
National Senior Women’s Fifteens Team Head Coach, Francois Ratier is also involved at the Provincial level as Technical Director for Rugby Quebec. National Senior Women’s Sevens Team Head Coach, John Tait has also served as Technical Advisor for the Fifteens Team. National Women’s Team Assistant Coach Sandro Fiorino has coached at the University, Club and Provincial levels.
With two matches against France and one against England, Ratier and his coaching staff will use the tour to gauge his team’s progression.
“The good teams are built on foreign fields,” said Ratier. “Playing France and England on their home ground will give us a better indication of our Rugby.”
The tour is Canada’s first since the fall of 2009 and is in large part to Rugby Canada’s continued efforts to provide the Women’s Fifteens Team with additional international competition in the lead up to next August.
“Our expectation is to perform during this tour,” said Ratier. “We also want to see more players in action and under pressure.”
“We want to build a strong and confident team to be ready to perform at the World Cup in Paris next summer.”
Canada’s Sevens athletes have played a vital role in the success of the Fifteens side. They are now a mobile team where their strength is based on movement and speed. Against teams like England, who rely heavily on the play of their forwards, they want the ball to move as quickly as possible. Most of that speed comes from the Sevens players.
Nine of the 27 players selected by Ratier played in the Women’s Sevens World Series last season, where Canada finished third in the standings. Seven of the 27 players were part of the Sevens team which reached the final at the World Cup.
Leading the team on tour is Fifteens Captain Kelly Russell, also a mainstay on the Sevens squad.
Ghislaine Landry, who finished second in scoring at the World Cup Sevens, is a game-changer when she’s on the pitch.
Jessica Dovanne, Bianca Farella and Magali Harvey provide the Canadians with incredible speed on the attack, a much needed strength in the game of Sevens.
Howat believes that the Canadians success in Sevens can be carried over to Fifteens.
“Players that are also a part of the National Sevens program are exposed to the highest quality coaching and strength and conditioning support on a daily basis, which not only develops their skills but brings the level and expectation up around our Fifteens program,” said Howat.
In October, Rugby Canada announced the making of a new world-class training facility at the Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence. The nearly 20,000 square foot high-performance addition will provide Rugby Canada with world class facilities for their athletes. The women will begin training there upon completion as it will play a major role in preparing for the upcoming World Cup as well as the 2015 Pan-Am Games and 2016 Summer Olympics, where Rugby Sevens will debut.
With all the recent success, Ratier is looking to take advantage of a unique situation.
“We are lucky to have a good generation of players.”