As two of the most successful teams on the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series since it began in the Dubai desert in December 2012, Australia and Canada are no strangers to meeting in the knockout stages of tournaments.
The most common stage for the rivals to meet is in the Cup semi-finals which account for 12 of their 21 series encounters, but after Canada failed to reach the Cup competition for the first time in series history in Kitakyushu last month they will meet in the first round of pool matches at the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens in Langford on Saturday.
This mouth-watering Pool C encounter will be only the fifth time they have met on day one of a tournament and neither the series leaders or host nation will be wanting to get off on the wrong foot in a pool that also features Kitakyushu semi-finalists Spain and Ireland.
They first met in the inaugural tournament in Dubai with Australia running out 14-10 winners in the Cup quarter-finals en route to finishing fourth. Their most recent meeting on the series came in the opening round in Dubai, where Australia were comfortable 25-7 winners in the Cup semi-finals.
Australia, though, were also 33-7 winners at the same stage in the Commonwealth Games on home soil last month and also tasted victory in the last four at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
It is more than two years since the teams last faced off in the pool stages. On that day in Sao Paulo, Australia ran out 29-14 winners and then repeated the feat a day later in the Cup final to lift the trophy and set them firmly on the road to claiming the overall series title for the first time.
This means that Australia have scored 345 points and Canada 267 in their 21 meetings on the series with the Langford hosts needing 195 points to join Australia (4,083) and New Zealand (4,640) as the only teams to have scored more than 4,000 points. These three nations are also the only teams to have won more than 100 matches (New Zealand 153, Australia 139 and Canada 121) in series history.
While their record in Cup finals is even at two wins apiece, Canada did beat Australia to claim their first ever series title in Amsterdam back in May 2015. A week earlier in London, the first Cup final between the teams had seen Australia come out on top by a 20-17 margin, but in Amsterdam the scoreline was reversed.
Delving a little deeper, former World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year Emilee Cherry appears to enjoy facing Canada as she is Australia’s top try and point scorer in the match-up with 11 and 61. Canada captain Ghislaine Landry, who returns after missing the last round in Kitakyushu through injury, tops their stats with nine tries and 80 points.
Canada are set to field one of the most experienced squads in Langford despite having Pam Buisa making her series debut. Canada’s provisional squad features 177 caps with Caroline Crossley the only other player with less than 10 tournaments to her name. Australia’s, by contrast, combines youth with a core of experience with seven players with less than 10 tournament to give a total of 146 events.
Australia do, though, boast one of the players tied for most tournaments played on the series in Cherry, who will play in her 28th tournament this weekend, as will New Zealand captain Sarah Goss.
Who do you think will come out on top when Canada and Australia collide in Langford?