Canada, the defending champions of the Hong Kong Sevens and reigning IRB Sevens Challenge Cup holders, have named their roster for the upcoming IRB event in China, which kicks off on March 23rd. Head Coach John Tait, having recently guided the Canadian women to a second consecutive victory at the USA Sevens in Las Vegas, has named a strong side full of speed, power and experience.
Leading the Canadians in pursuit of their sixth consecutive major tournament win will be experienced veterans like Kelly Russell, who played every minute of every game for Canada at their previous IRB Challenge Cup win, in Dubai. Russell makes up one twelve of a squad which features a dynamic and exciting core of talent. Powerful runners like Alberta's Jen Kish and Manitoba's Mandy Marchak will look to punch holes in opposition defence and make room for the raw speed and creativity embodied in the likes Ghislaine Landry and Ashley Steacy.
Selection for the Hong Kong tournament has been a process unrivaled in the history of Canadian women's rugby. Having assembled talent from Europe, the national club scene, as well as the Canadian university game, twenty committed athletes have spent months working on thier speed, fitness and skill at Rugby Canada's Centre of Excellence in Langford, British Columbia. The Canadian coaching staff has been able to gather an unprecedented amount of data on their players and have had the opportunity to witness athletes in head-to-head competition for extended periods of time. Funding from the Canadian government's "Own The Podium" program has meant that Canada's seven stars are benefiting from the tools necessary to maintain their status as the world's number one team. Such funding enabled opportunities like the recent clinic put on at the C.O.E. in Langford by legendary New Zealand kicking coach Mick "The Kick" Byrne.
Advancing to the twelve player Hong Kong roster are a number of athletes who have recently impressed for the Canadian Maple Leafs, this country's women's sevens development side. Vancouver's Andrea Burk will look to add her big tackles and impressive breakdown work to an already imposing Canadian defence, while Kelsey Willoughby, who Captained the Canadian development team in Dubai, returns to help Canada in their quest to defend the most prestigious trophy in the women's sevens game.
Coach Tait had the following words about readying his side for battle in Hong Kong:
"We are looking forward to the challenge of repeating as Cup champions at the Hong Kong Sevens. The opposition has been increasingly more prepared to play us and being favorites brings a pressure of its own. We have a lot of depth in this side with players who are able to play in multiple spots with real effectiveness, and we will likely try some different combinations and show some different looks in attack.
Without wanting to look beyond our pool, we are excited to have another opportunity to tests ourselves against the likes of England and Australia for the first time since Dubai."
Canada has been placed in Pool A in Hong Kong, drawn against Brazil, host of the 2016 Summer Olympics, and Russia, host of the 2013 Rugby Sevens World Cup , which will also feature a women‚s tournament. Canada will also expect stiff competition from the likes of Australia and England, both of whom showed very well in Dubai, as well as the United States whom the Canadians defeated in the Grand Final of the Las Vegas Sevens, February.
The National Women's 7's team would also like to the "Own The Podium" for their support.
2012 Hong Kong Sevens Squad
Andrea Burk - Capilano RFC (North Vancouver, BC)
Magali Harvey - Club de Rugby de Quebec / St. Francis-Xavier University (Quebec City, QC)
Jen Kish - Edmonton Rockers (Edmonton, AB
Ghislaine Landry - Toronto Scottish RFC (Toronto, ON)
Mandy Marchak - Capilano RFC (North Vancouver, BC / Winnipeg, MN)
Barbara Mervin - Velox Valkyries (Victoria, BC)
Kayla Moleschi - University of Lethbridge (Williams Lake, BC)
Cheryl Phillips - Toronto Scottish RFC (Toronto, ON)
Kelly Russell - Toronto Nomads (Bolton, ON)
Ashley Steacy - Lethbridge Rugby Club (Lethbridge, AB)
Brittany Waters - Meraloma Athletic Club (Vancouver, BC)
Kelsey Willoughby - Lethbridge Rugby Club / University of Lethbridge (Lethbridge, AB)
John Tait- Head Coach
Sandro Fiorino- Assistant Coach
Kristy Martin Hale- Manager
Kim Oslund - Therapist
Tyler Goodale- Strength & Conditioning Coach