The coach of Canada’s men’s sevens rugby team is looking for a boost in the sport’s popularity from a World Cup qualifying tournament in Ottawa this month.
It’s another shot in the arm for rugby sevens, which will make its Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“We think there’s at the moment a general excitement towards the game,” coach Geraint John said Tuesday.
“Hopefully, with this tournament as well, there’ll be a continued sort of growth in the game and [it will] spur a lot of new players towards the game.”
Canada will take on other teams from North America and the Caribbean Aug. 25 and 26 in Ottawa at the North America Caribbean Rugby Association championship.
The two top teams will secure spots in what the International Rugby Board says could be the last sevens World Cup, set for Moscow next June, now that sevens has been admitted to the Summer Olympics.
Canada’s men’s team has qualified for every rugby sevens World Cup since the first one in 1993, but has never won the title.
“We’ve an opportunity to play in front of our home community,” John said. “It will be the first time an event like this will be able to take place in Canada.”
The men’s team, announced earlier this week, is training in Victoria and will be heading to Ottawa next Wednesday.
It includes captain Nanyak Dala from Saskatoon, Sean White, Phil Mack and Connor Braid from Victoria, Chauncey O’Toole from Saint John, Ciaran Hearn, Conception Bay, Nfld., Conor Trainor, Harry Jones and Sean Duke from Vancouver, John Moonlight from Pickering, Ont., Tyler Ardron from Peterborough, Ont., and Jeff Hassler from Okotoks, Alta.
All have experience on the IRB sevens world circuit, and Dala also has been a regular on the national men’s 15-player team.
Canada and the United States are favourites going into the tournament.
The Canadian women’s sevens team that will take part was announced last Friday.
The women are playing teams from Guyana, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago for only one berth in the World Cup.
Canadian women took part in the NACRA championship for the first time last year in Barbados and won the event by defeating Jamaica 38-0.