“It’s a tough pool as you’d expect from any pool you’re drawn into in the Sevens Series,” Middleton said. “We’ve played Fiji a fair bit in the last World Series and obviously they’re defending champions so they’ll provide us with a fair bit of competition. We know how to play against them, we just have to execute.
“Japan are a good rugby team and are well drilled. Argentina are a team we’ve played regularly and we go toe-to-toe with them and I think we’re evolving our game to be more and more competitive.”
After featuring at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Moonlight, Harry Jones, Phil Mack, Conor Trainor and Nathan Hirayama return to the sevens fold while Admir Cejvanovic, Justin Douglas, Sean Duke, Mike Fuailefau, Pat Kay, Sean White and Adam Zaruba make up the rest of Middleton’s 12-man squad. Between them, they have 306 Sevens Series caps.
Last season, Mack only appeared in one Sevens Series event while Hirayama appeared just twice as both battled injuries all season long.
“They bring a different element to the game and a lot of lateral movement,” Middleton said. “They have some good playmaking ability and it gives us good balance in our side with the pace and power that we have.”
Canada will tackle Fiji in their opening game of the tournament, a team they hold a 2-39 record against. Canada will follow that up with games against Argentina, who they are 13-20-1 against and Japan, who Canada has beaten 18 times in 22 contests. Canada beat Argentina in the Pan-Am Games gold medal match in Toronto in July.
Last season, Canada finished ninth in the series standings but ended the season in positive fashion, reaching the cup quarterfinals in four of the last five tournaments. The highlight of the season was Canada’s 19-15 win over New Zealand in the Tokyo Sevens Cup quarters where they become the first Canadian international team at any level to defeat New Zealand. Their fourth place finish at that tournament was their best of the season.
After the Dubai Sevens, Canada will travel to South Africa for the series’ second leg. Middleton will take the 12 players from the Dubai Sevens to Cape Town while Nanyak Dala will also join the team and be considered for selection.
In addition to the Sevens Series event, Canada will send a Maple Leafs squad to play in the Dubai International Invitational. The team will be captained by Lucas Hammond and also features Dala while the rest of the squad highlights Canada’s new wave of talent. Former Canadian international Dave Moonlight, who played in 37 Sevens Series tournaments, will be the team’s head coach.
Canada’s Roster for the Dubai Sevens (Name, club, hometown):
Admir Cejvanovic – (Burnaby Lake RFC/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Justin Douglas – (Abbotsford RFC) Abbotsford, BC
Sean Duke – (Unattached/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Mike Fuailefau – (Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Nathan Hirayama – (UVIC Vikes/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Harry Jones – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) North Vancouver, BC
Pat Kay – (Unattached/BC Bears) Duncan, BC
Phil Mack – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
John Moonlight – Captain (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Pickering, ON
Conor Trainor – (UBCOB Ravens/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Sean White – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Adam Zaruba – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Canada’s Dubai Sevens Day 1 Schedule:
Canada vs. Fiji —12am ET/9pm PT
Canada vs. Argentina — 3:22am ET/12:22am PT
Canada vs. Japan — 9:06 am ET/6:06am PT
Head Coach – Liam Middleton
Assistant Coach – Lee Douglas
Team Manager – Brian Hunter
Physiotherapist – Danielle Mah
Performance Analyst – Calum Ramsay
Canada’s Maple Leafs Roster for the Dubai International Invitational (Name, club, hometown):
Luke Bradley – (UVIC Vikes/Port Alberni Black Sheep) Port Alberni, BC
Andrew Coe – (UBC Thunderbirds/Ontario Blues) Markham, ON
Trenton Cooper – (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Uxbridge, ON
Nanyak Dala – (Castaway Wanderers/Prairie Wolf Pack) Saskatoon, SK
Riley Di Nardo – (Guelph University) Toronto, ON
Aaron Evison – (James Bay AA) Victoria, BC
Lucas Hammond – Captain (Toronto Nomads/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Matt Mullins – (Queens University/Ontario Blues) Belleville, ON
Karsten Leitner – (UBC Thunderbirds) Vancouver, BC
Luke McCloskey – (Castaway Wanderers) Victoria, BC
Ollie Nott – (UVIC Vikes) Qualicum Beach, BC
Jon West – (Guelph University) Scarborough, ON
Canada’s Maple Leafs Dubai Sevens Day 1 Schedule:
Maple Leafs vs. Germany Development — 4:20 am ET / 1:20 am PT
Maple Leafs vs. Spain — 7am ET / 4am PT
Maple Leafs vs. The Royals — 9:20am ET / 6:20am PT
Maple Leafs Head Coach – Dave Moonlight
Maple Leafs Team Manager – Sean Liebich
Physiotherapist – Katie Wnuk