After having their early expectations derailed, the Canadian women’s sevens team hopes playing in front of a hometown crowd at the upcoming HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event in Vancouver can help put their season back on track.
“It’s not been the start and the season that we were wanting,” co-captain Olivia Apps said during a break in training. “There’s lots to be said about this new group and just trying to build some chemistry and some cohesion with some new faces.
“I think for myself and the team, we’re really looking forward to making some bigger strides in the end of the season and finishing on a high.”
After four stops on the World Rugby Sevens Series, the Canadian women are ranked 10th among the 14 teams with 16 points. The team’s best finish was eighth place in Cape Town, South Africa.
New Zealand, the winner of three of the tournaments, leads the standings with 78 points.
The HSBC Canada Sevens will be held at BC Place Stadium March 3-5. It will be the eighth time the tournament has been staged in Vancouver but the first with a full slate of 12 women’s teams competing at the same time as the men.
“It’s definitely something the team has been looking forward to,” said Apps. “It’s really special because it’s such a young team being able to showcase the rugby we have been working on.
“I have so much belief in this program and what we’re doing. It’s really going to be an honour to be able to do it in front of friends and family.”
The Canadian women finished seventh overall in last year’s world sevens series. They were eighth in Dubai early in the season, then down the stretch placed fifth playing at home in Langford, B.C., and finished sixth in the final event in Toulouse, France.
“We wanted to get a podium finish this year and we are still looking to do that,” said Apps, a 24-year-old scrum half from Lindsay, Ont. “We were expecting some higher results this year, especially with the training we’ve done.
“Clearly we have a lot of work that still needs to be done, lots of learning going forward.”
Co-captain Breanne Nicholas said the Canadians will feed off the energy of the frenzied crowd that has packed BC Place for past tournaments.
“We know what the home crowd feels like in Langford, so we’re even more amped to get to BC Place, where we know there will be a huge crowd,” said the 28-year-old hooker from Blenheim, Ont.
“It will be awesome. We can turn the season around.”
The Canadian lineup will benefit from several players returning from injury, including rising star Piper Logan.
Logan turned heads in her international debut last year as part of the team that finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. She also was part of the team that finished sixth at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town.
The Calgary native, who plays for UBC, suffered a foot injury in November during the Thunderbirds’ Canada West championship win over the Victoria Vikes.
Logan was sidelined for eight weeks but had her first full practice Monday and has been given the green light to play again. Being forced to watch as the team struggled hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been a new experience,” she said. “You want to be out there. It’s difficult seeing the challenges they’re going through and not being able to help out.
“A lot of us are coming back from injury so it will be a new group, which will be exciting for us.”
Logan brings some versatility to the Canadian lineup by being able to play several different positions.
Apps likes what she has seen from Logan in the past.
“Piper is an unpredictable player,” she said. “She brings a lot of speed and a lot of strength both defensively and offensively.
“She’s really an exciting player to watch.”
Apps believes having men and women playing at the same tournament benefits the sport.
“With the men’s and women’s sevens program in Canada, it’s nice to have more cohesion,” she said.
“Internationally, women being able to play alongside the men at the same tournament, equality across the board is really important. Having more tournaments with them is going to be great exposure for the women’s game and for sevens in general.”
—Jim Morris, The Canadian Press