The Canadian national women's sevens team has arrived in Dubai to defend the championship title they won at the 2011 event. To do so, Coach John Tait's side know they will have to survive a difficult challenge in Pool B, as they face off against Russia, China and New Zealand.
In Russia, the Canadians will take on a side that is known for its physicality and direct style of play. Veteran Mandy Marchak labeled Russia as one of the fiercest competitors she has come up against, when she spoke following previous battles.
"I would say they would have to be one of the fittest teams, next to us, competing in the tournaments. Not only are they fit, but they don't lack in size, skill or speed. They play hard, even if we have a good lead on them, it is always a fight to the finish. If we let off at all, for a second, they have what it takes to beat us. I can honestly say that they give us some of the harder games of Sevens I had ever been involved in."
The Canadians make their start on Friday against the Russians just prior to 12:30pm local time, and follow-up with a contest against the Chinese women, four hours later.
China has benefitted tremendously from the surge in sports funding surrounding the Beijing Olympics, and are an ever-improving and highly technical outfit. China will host one of the four IRB Women's World Series events in 2013, and there will certainly be pressure on China's women to perform well in the first event of the brand new competition.
That competition has been something the world of women's rugby has been anxiously awaiting. Led by the IRB, It is part of the global effort to prepare the sport for entry in the summer olympics, starting with the 2016 games in Rio. Coach Tait knows that his players must be ready to face an increasing level of international competition, and has incorporated that concept into his training and selection practices.
"The new series will provide consistent level of high competition for us building towards Rugby Sevens World Cup in Moscow, with all of the top Nations competing. Our program has also grown more competitive with us having some depth in each position now. This will combat any complacency in the group and will hopefully continue to push Canada for greater success."
In the last match of a long first day of rugby (9:15pm local time), Canada will take to the field against the New Zealand Black Ferns, in what may well prove to be the pool's deciding contest. New Zealand announced their return to world of Sevens Rugby with a convincing win over World Champions from Australia, in the 2012 Oceania Sevens.
New Zealand's coaches have picked a young but highly athletic group to compete in Dubai, and they will be on the hunt to claim the top spot in Pool B, at the expense of the highly-ranked Canadians.
Whatever the result of that final epic Pool B clash, the top-eight seeded teams will all have chance to advance by competing in the Cup Quarter-Finals on Day Two. The lesser-ranked nations will compete in the plate and bowl competitions. Canada will want to claim an easy draw by topping their pool, but there will be no avoiding their fellow Sevens heavyweights in the long run.
There is no place to hide in the world of Sevens Rugby, and Captain Jen Kish and her squad know they will have to get past the likes of New Zealand, England, The Netherlands and The United States, if they are to once again climb the ramparts of 7he Sevens Stadium in Dubai and hoist championship gold. That is feeling this group of elite athletes knows well from past accomplishments, and with the lure of the World Championships in Moscow drawing ever closer, Team Canada will once again be seeking to prove themselves to the world this coming weekend.
Follow Canada‚s Women's squads with live updates from field level for all of Canada‚s games at the Dubai Sevens; including those of the Canadian Maple Leafs development squad by following @RugbyCanada on Twitter.
Canadian National Women's 7s Squad
Bianca Farella, (Town of Mount Royal RFC) Montreal, QC
Magali Harvey, (Club de Rugby Quebec) Quebec City, QC
Jennifer Kish, Captain (Edmonton Rockers RFC) Edmonton, AB
Ghislaine Landry, (Toronto Scottish RFC) Toronto, ON
Mandy Marchak, (Capilano RFC) Winnipeg, MB
Barbara Mervin, (Velox Rugby Club) Peterborough, ON
Kayla Moleschi, (Williams Lake Rustlers) Williams Lake, BC
Karen Paquin, (Club de Rugby Quebec) Quebec City, QC
Cheryl Phillips, (Toronto Scottish RFC) Scarborough, ON
Kelly Russell, (Toronto Nomads) Bolton, ON
Ashley Steacy, (Lethbridge Rugby Club) Lethbridge, AB
Brittany Waters, (Meraloma Athletic Club) Vancouver, BC
Canadian Maple Leafs 7s Squad
Elissa Alarie, (Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Rugby Club) Trois Rivieres, QC
Andrea Burk, (Capilano RFC) North Vancouver, BC
Jessica Dovanne, (Velox Rugby Club) Victoria, BC
Arielle Dubissette-Borrice, (Toronto Scottish RFC) Toronto, ON
Megan Gibbs, (Markham Irish) Barrie, ON
Julia Greenshields, (Sarnia Saints RFC) Sarnia, ON
Frederique Rajotte, (Markham Irish RFC) Markham, ON
Genevieve Thibault, (Club de Rugby Quebec) Quebec City, QC
Amanda Thornborough, (Brandon Barbarians RFC) Brandon, MB
Julianne Zussman, Captain (Town of Mount Royal RFC) Ottawa, ON
Coaches and Staff
John Tait, Head Coach, National Women's 7s
Sandro Fiorino, Head Coach, Canadian Maple Leafs
Colette McAuley, Assistant Coach
Francois Ratier, Assistant Coach
Tyler Goodale, Strength and Conditioning Coach
Meg Howat, National Women's Manager
Jason White, Lead Athletic Therapist
Press Officer - Jeff Hull
Dubai 7s: November 30 - December 1
Day one schedule:
Canada vs. Russia - 12:28 (Local Time)
Canada vs. China - 16:36 (Local Time)
Canada vs. New Zealand - 21:12 (Local Time)
Day two schedule: TBD
IRB Women's Sevens World Series
Round 1 - UAE: Dubai, November 30 ˆ December 1, 2012 ˆ 7he Sevens Stadium
Round 2 - USA: Houston, Texas, 1-2 February, 2013 - BBVA Compass Stadium
Round 3 - China: Guangzhou, 30-31 March 2013 - Guangzhou University Town Stadium
Round 4 - Netherlands: Amsterdam, 17-18 May 2013 - NRCA Stadium
Rugby World Cup Sevens, Moscow, June 28-30 2013