Ghislaine Landry will serve as captain in the absence of the injured Jen Kish when Olympic bronze medallist Canada opens the HSBC Women’s Seven Series in Dubai.
The Dec. 1-2 tournament kicks off the five-stop rugby circuit that comes to Langford, B.C., next May.
Kish, who recently tried out for the Canadian bobsled team, is rehabbing a neck injury that has flared up again. She was originally hurt at the final stop of the 2016-17 World Series.
“She got through Rio on it but she’s taken some time off right now to build up that area so it doesn’t become a chronic issue, ” said Canadian coach John Tait.
Tait has 25 players centralized in Langford, with 15 of those having experience on the women’s circuit. The newcomers are Olivia Apps, Pamphinette Buisa, Emma Chown, Sophie de Goede, Ashley Gordon, Kaili Lukan, Irene Patrinos, Denise Roy, Erika Scott and Tia Svoboda.
The youngsters started work in late August while the senior players who did not go to Rio joined them in September. The Olympians arrived in mid-October minus Kelly Russell, Elissa Alarie, Karen Paquin and Magali Harvey who have all returned to the 15s game.
Alarie and Harvey were alternates on the Olympic team, with Alarie a travelling reserve. While Russell has retired from sevens, Tait hopes she will help with coaching later in the season.
Kish and fellow veteran Ashley Steacy are still with the team although they are no longer centralized. They will be based out of Alberta, joining the rest of the team around competitions.
“They’re capable of physically prepping on their own,” said Tait. “I don’t expect them to be were they were in Rio but I expect they’ll still have a good impact for us to help bridge with the younger players the next couple of years.”
Tait will be without two of his main ball-winners in the air in Dubai with Kish and Russell unavailable. That will means a shift in tactics in that part of the game, as well as some positional changes.
But despite the losses, Tait is fielding a strong squad with plenty of experience in Dubai.
“I’m excited,” he said. “The team that goes to Dubai is going to be a faster team that’s as skilled if not more skilled across the board than the team we took to the Olympics. What it will be will be a little less experienced in those big-pressure situations. But the World Serries, that’s what we use it for to prep for the World Cup and the Pan-American Games and also ultimately the Olympics.”
Canada finished third behind Australia and runner-up New Zealand on the world circuit last season, winning the final event in Clermont, France.
“Dubai will be an interesting marker because there’s a lot of turnover in other teams,” said Tait.
The Canadian women leave Thursday although Tait’s departure has been delayed due to his daughter undergoing surgery. Assistant coaches Sandro Fiorino and Morgan Williams will be with the squad.
- Britt Benn, Guelph Redcoats, Napanee, Ont.
- Hannah Darling, Peterborough Pagans, Warsaw, Ont.
- Bianca Farella, Town of Mount Royal RCF, Montreal
- Sara Kaljuvee, Toronto Scottish, Ajax, Ont.
- Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints, Sarnia, Ont.
- Ghislaine Landry (capt.), Toronto Scottish, Toronto
- Megan, unattached, Barrie, Ont.
- Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake Rustlers, Williams Lake, B.C.
- Breanne Nicholas, London St. Georges RFC, Blenheim, Ont.
- Ashley Steacy, Lethbridge Rugby Club, Lethbridge, Alta.
- Natasha Watcham--Roy, Hull Volant, Gatineau, Que.
- Charity Williams, Markham Irish, Toronto.