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Canada looks to build on third-place finish in rugby sevens season opener


Coach John Tait, forced to juggle his roster last season due to injuries, has chosen the same lineup that finished third in Glendale, Colo., for the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens.

Captain Ghislaine Landry leads the Canadians after making history on the opening stop of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series in October, becoming the first woman to reach the 1,000-point milestone on the circuit.

"Unselfish is not a word you usually associate with someone who's a points-leader in the world but she is," Tait said of the 30-year-old from Toronto. "She definitely looks to pass before she attacks. But she has a real good sense on when to go herself and she creates a lot on her own with her ability.

"I'm really proud of that achievement for her. Considering that every season she's missed one or two tournaments with a knock and some years she's missed two or three. When you only have five of six of those (events) a year, it's pretty special that she's still out there in front on points." 

The Canadian women went 5-1 in Glendale. The lone loss came to eventual winner New Zealand in the Cup semifinal, with Black Ferns star Portia Woodman putting on a show with a pair of tries in a 28-19 win.

Tait, whose teams has sometimes been slow out of the blocks, was pleased by the performance in Colorado.

"We came out pretty well and we got better every game," he said Monday.

"I thought overall we were probably the second-best team there and just the way the draw happened we finished third," he added.

The women's event in Dubai runs Nov. 29-30 while the men's tournament, the first of 10 stops on tour, goes Nov. 30-Dec. 1. 

The Canadian men are in a pool with Australia, England and Japan in Dubai. The women are in a pool with France, Spain and Fiji.

The Canadian women faced France twice in Glendale, winning 24-10 in pool play and 28-0 in the bronze-medal game. Canada also beat Fiji 26-7 in pool play. 

Choosing the same lineup is a luxury after the injury-plagued 2017-18 season. The lone long-term casualty this year is Karen Paquin, who is expected back in January from a knee injury.

"It's a huge plus," said Tait. "It's one thing we couldn't do last year. I don't think we had the same squad twice until the end of the season. It's tough to play consistently if you're always swapping and changing the lineup by more than one or two players."

Canada finished fourth in the overall standings in a disappointing 2017-18 season. Tait's team had finished third in four of the previous five seasons — it was second in 2014-15.

A top-four finish this season means automatic qualification for the 2020 Olympics.

The Canadian women leave Wednesday for Dubai.

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Canada Roster

Olivia Apps, Lindsay RFC, Lindsay, Ont.; Britt Benn, Guelph Redcoats, Napanee, Ont.; Pam Buisa, Ottawa Irish, Gatineau, Que.; Emma Chown, Aurora Barbarians , Barrie, Ont.; Caroline Crossley, Castaway Wanderers, Victoria; Bianca Farella, Town of Mount Royal RCF, Montreal; Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints, Sarnia, Ont.; Sara Kaljuvee, Toronto Scottish, Pickering, Ont.; Ghislaine Landry (capt.), Toronto Scottish, Toronto; Kaili Lukan, unattached, Barrie, Ont.; Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake Rustlers, Williams Lake, B.C.; Breanne Nicholas, London St. Georges RFC, Blenheim, Ont.; Charity Williams, Markham Irish, Toronto.

 

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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