Core status is priority for Canada Sevens
Canada Sevens head into this weekend's Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens looking to secure their place as a core team for the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series.
At the 2012 edition, Geraint John's side won the core team qualifier and have since competed in all five rounds of the season and are currently positioned 10th in the overall standings with 39 points.
With the lowest ranked three of the 15 core teams after Glasgow competing in the core team qualifier in London, John is hoping his side will be able to gain enough Series points to avoid the uncertainty that comes with a tournament like that, having experienced it only 12 months ago.
"We must be happy so far," said John. "If we were told at the beginning of the season that we would have made two Plate finals (winning one) and also winning a Bowl before Hong Kong then we would have jumped at it.
"It will be nice to go to Hong Kong this year and to be able to play in the top tournament. Last year going to the qualifier was very stressful.
"This is something we are striving not to do again but we need to do well here and Tokyo so that we are not in that bottom three. Our goal at the beginning of the year was to stay in that top 12 and that remains our top priority. If we do not remain as a core team then we don't have a program."
Striving to improve
Canada's best performance on the 2012/13 Series came in Las Vegas where they won the Plate and have been impressively led by Nanyak Dala throughout.
Injuries thwarted their tournament in Port Elizabeth but John will also be looking to Sean Duke (second in the overall try scoring chart with 22) and Nathan Hirayama (third in the points tally with 142) to help his side continue improving.
"To be able to say that we have beaten the likes of South Africa, Fiji, Samoa, France, Kenya and drawn with England shows how good we have performed this season.
"On a less positive note was what happened in South Africa – to only get one point and to have that many injuries in one tournament was disappointing.
"On the whole we are very happy but we also need to keep working and keep improving, we cannot be satisfied and we want to be better."
In Hong Kong, Canada face matches with the hosts, Fiji and Spain, a side that also qualified as a core team at last year's Hong Kong Sevens alongside Canada and also Portugal.
"It is going to be a difficult tournament," added John.
"Fiji are an extremely good side with exceptional players while Spain play excellent Sevens and are very well coached.
"Then there is Hong Kong who are coached by a very close friend of mine (David Rees) who I have great respect for and admire. They were very unlucky not to get through as a core team last year and are preparing very well and they will want to do well in front of their home ground.
"Our aim will be to prepare as best that we can, leave no stone unturned and to keep doing what we did well in USA and Wellington."
And what advice would John offer to those 12 teams competing in the core team pre-qualifier, with only four spots available at the qualifier in London.
"A big learning for us was to play your game. At times last year we played as if we did not want to lose instead of playing to win.
"We were very nervous and the enjoyment and freedom was not there. This year we have gone out to play and enjoy what we are doing both in attack and defence.
"For those teams the reward is great. To be on the circuit and to have a structured season certainly helps with your planning and goals. Plus it helps in terms of bringing extra finance in."
Series qualifying explained: Hong Kong & London
From the end of the 2012/13 HSBC Sevens World Series, promotion and relegation from core team status comes into effect, with a pre-qualifying competition in Hong Kong (round 6) and a final core team qualifier in London (round 9).
The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will feature 28 teams and two competitions: In the first, the 15 current core teams and the winner of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series, Hong Kong, will compete for the famous Hong Kong title and World Series points. In the second, 12 regional teams - two from each of the six IRB regions - will compete for four places at the core team qualifying final in London.
The Marriott London Sevens will feature 20 teams and two competitions: In the first, the top 12-ranked sides in the HSBC Sevens World Series after round 8, the Emirates Airline Glasgow Sevens, will compete for the London title and final World Series points. In the second, the 13th-, 14th- and 15th-ranked core teams after the Glasgow event will compete against the four qualifiers from Hong Kong and Asian champions Hong Kong for the three available core team places on the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series.