Captain John Moonlight to lead 12-player side into crucial last-chance repechage qualifier in Monaco
The tournament offers the last opportunity for Canada to qualify for the inaugural rugby sevens event at the Olympics in a winner take all format.
“We are focusing on one game at a time, preparing in detail for that performance and then turning our attention to the next one,” Middleton said. “It’s all about the process, going about our work with intensity. Every team that competes in this tournament knows what the prize is.
“It’s simply about picking the best team for this tournament. Our focus as a team won’t go past the first game but the aim is to play six games and considering how challenging each game will be and the fact that we won’t ask all of our players to play every minute I made the squad based on the requirement to get the best out of every player.”
Canada will once again be captained by John Moonlight who will be joined by sevens regulars Phil Berna, Admir Cejvanovic, Justin Douglas, Mike Fuailefau, Lucas Hammond, Nathan Hirayama, Harry Jones, Phil Mack, Conor Trainor and Adam Zaruba. Additionally, Ciaran Hearn, who left the sevens program before the start of the season to take a professional deal with the London Irish after a standout 2015 Rugby World Cup, is recalled. Hearn hasn’t featured for Canada’s sevens team since the 2015 Glasgow Sevens.
“Ciaran is an experienced sevens player and I enjoyed working with him before he joined London Irish,” Middleton said. “He brings pace and physicality with an excellent kicking option.”
The Olympic Repechage will run like a regular HSBC Sevens Series event with 16 teams being split into four pools of four. While there will be the usual cup, bowl, shield and plate divisions on Day 2, only the cup winner will advance to the Olympics.
In Monaco, Canada has been drawn into Pool B where they will face Uruguay, Sri Lanka and Germany. The tournament features only two other HSBC Sevens Series regulars — Samoa and Russia — with Canada entering the competition hoping to use their underdog status to their advantage.
Canada enters the tournament after a 13th place finish in the 2015-16 HSBC Sevens Series season. Highlighted by a bowl title at the inaugural Canada Sevens at BC Place in Vancouver, Canada demonstrated moments of brilliance but were unable to string together consistent results. Hirayama led the team in scoring with 295 points, good for fourth most during the season. Canada had seven players score double digit tries — Hirayama, Moonlight, Jones, Douglas, Cejvanovic, Fuailefau and Trainor — as they also claimed the bowl title in Sydney.
“We aimed to get better at some part of our game in every tournament that we played and we did that throughout each leg as a building process to this point in the season,” Middleton said. “There are parts of our game that stack up very well on the HSBC Sevens Series and we will use those building blocks to launch our performances.
“We have produced some impressive wins in big games and its those reference points that will serve us well in this all to play for tournament.”
The tournament will be streamed LIVE through www.worldrugby.org beginning on June 18.
Canada’s Roster for the Rio 2016 Olympic Repechage
Phil Berna – (UBC Thunderbirds), Vancouver, BC
Admir Cejvanovic – (Burnaby Lake RFC/BC Bears) Burnaby, BC
Justin Douglas – (Abbotsford RFC/BC Bears) Abbotsford, BC
Mike Fuailefau – (Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Lucas Hammond – (Toronto Nomads/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Nathan Hirayama – (UVIC Vikes/BC Bears) Richmond, BC
Ciaran Hearn – (London Irish) Conception Bay, NL
Harry Jones – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) West Vancouver, 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
Adam Zaruba – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Canada’s men’s sevens coaching staff:
Liam Middleton – Head Coach
Lee Douglas – Assistant Coach
Brian Hunter – Manager
Danielle Mah – Physiotherapist
Calum Ramsay – Performance Analyst
Canada’s Rio 2016 Olympic Repechage Day 1 Schedule:
Canada vs. Uruguay — 5:44am ET/2:44am PT
Canada vs. Sri Lanka — 8:59am ET/5:59am PT
Canada vs. Germany — 12:36pm ET/9:36am PT