Gold Coast a fresh start for Canada Sevens

(IRB.COM) Monday 17 September 2012
 Gold Coast a fresh start for Canada Sevens
Sean Duke could compete to be this season's top try scorer on the World Series

Like Iberian rivals Portugal and Spain, the Canucks of Canada are set to embark on the 2012/13 HSBC Sevens World Series as a core team following an increase in the number from 12 to 15 for this season.

With Australia's Gold Coast Sevens on 13-14 October just around the corner, head coach Geraint John has had his side in camp in Victoria with an initial aim to compete toe-to-toe with the world's best.

"The Gold Coast is a new venue for us and we are looking forward to it," said John.

"Our aim is to be competitive and become a team that no one wants to play. Last season we managed to get to the quarter finals in Wellington and we would like to repeat this as often as possible. But like all teams, we want to remain as a core team."

Having won the core team qualifying tournament in Hong Kong in March, beating Spain 22-5 in the final thanks to a Sean Duke hat-trick, Canada ensured they would compete at all nine tournaments this season.

Amateur athletes

In the 2011/12 World Series, John's side travelled to five rounds, and the increased number of tournaments also bring its difficulties.

"The key for us is to make sure all the players are healthy so that we can attend each tournament with the best team," added John.

"Many of our players are also involved in the 15s programme, so managing their time will be vital and we have started looking at that for the players.

"An example of this would be in October and November this year when a player might have to leave Canada at the start of November, attend the 15s tour of the UK and then go to Dubai and South Africa.

"This would be around six weeks away from home - again a big ask for an amateur athlete. Therefore one of our other key aims has been to look for more financial support - sponsorship for the programme and also player support."

Canada's Sevens players remain amateur but with qualification as a core team, and with the RWC Sevens, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and a Pan American Games title defence on the horizon, their schedule is only going to get busier.

The recent camp held on Victoria Island by John is a sign that preparation is a key focus for Canada and if they want to be in Rio de Janeiro competing for a medal at the 2016 Olympic Games, there is no time like the present to begin.

Olympic preparation

"It was very important for Canada to get to the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013. The majority of the squad came to Victoria in early July so we could train and prepare for the qualifier. This is something we have not done before and shows the players' dedication and the sacrifices they make to play for Canada.

"We have started planning for the next four years and this has been something that we have worked hard on with our partners, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium.

"There are many competitions ahead over the next four years so, yes, it seems the focus has already started for 2016 and the Olympics. It is on everyone's agenda.

"Following the coverage in London, the main topic of conversation with my players is the commitment and the sacrifices that need to be taken to be an Olympic athlete and a high performance player.

"For a country as large as Canada this is huge. We are asking players to leave home and live in Victoria so that they can be coached by ourselves and have the off field support they require.

"We are fortunate that we can fund 15 players a small amount and this support again comes from a partner - Sport Canada. They give each athlete an allowance every month to train plus they will help in funding their education (University costs). This helps but it is very small, and the players still have to find part-time work."

Canada's first task as a core team on the World Series will be to face current Series champions New Zealand, South Africa and North American neighbours USA after the pool allocation draw for the Gold Coast was made this week.