Canadian Women Rugby 7s Own the Podium
Feature Stories, Sports & Recreation

Rugby 7s On Fire!

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March Feature Article

Rugby 7s On Fire!

WESTHILLS STADIUM

Interview with Five Rugby 7s Olympians, and
Bryan Kelly, Manager, Media Relations and Communications
By Anne Marie Moro

Photo credits: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images/Mike Lee

The speed, simplicity, and ease of play are all contributing to the sudden, exciting rise in popularity of Rugby 7s today. Rugby 7s is a variation of Rugby Union. When you’re watching the game, the most obvious difference is that Rugby 7s teams are made up of 7 players playing 7-minute halves instead of the usual 15 players playing 40-minute halves.

With a reduced number of players on each side, players need to be faster, more agile than players in a 15s game. They need to pass twice as far, move twice as fast, catch more often and cover twice the ground on defense. A fan would also notice that a 7s game has very few scrums, so there is practically no pause in the action. All that makes the sport much faster and, some would say, much more entertaining to watch.

Canadian Women Rugby 7s Olympians Interview
Rugby 7s Olympians from left to right: Natasha Watcham, Charity Williams, Ghislaine Landry, Kayla Moleschi, and Bianca Farella.

GoWestShore Magazine staff caught up with 5 Rugby 7s Olympians at their Rugby Canada home base in Langford: Ghislaine Landry, Bianca Farella, Kayla Moleschi, Charity Williams, and Natasha Watcham and Bryan Kelly, Manager, Media Relations and Communications. The women were busy training for the start of the HSBC World Series in Sydney, Australia (January 26-27 where they won bronze!) but we managed to fit in a cover photo shoot anyway—out in the field in the pouring rain! Later inside, we warmed up and had a conversation about how they are preparing themselves for the season. Here is an merged version of that conversation:

Q: What does the Rugby Sevens game mean to you? How is it evolving?
A:  I think when you start playing a sport, it’s for fun and it’s the friends that you make and the environment. But later, when it becomes your job and your full-time passion, it becomes so much more. Rugby for me is kind of where I found purpose and a sense of worth; and that [feeling] transfers in and outside of the sport.

We’ve come so far in our playing careers. I’ve experienced our women’s program evolve massively. I started playing rugby when we would pay $3,000 to go on tour, wearing oversized men’s kit, told women’s rugby wasn’t marketable and no one in Canada knew we even had a women’s rugby team. Fast forward to 2018, I’m a full-time athlete, an Olympian, earning a salary in a funded program, training at a world-class facility with a five-star support staff right here on the West Shore.

"We’ve put rugby on the map in Canada
and are pushing to be the best team in the world
—and, all the while, wearing kit that fits me!"

Q: What else is different?
A:  I think there is definitely more media coverage that helps our programmes and rugby as a whole, especially since the 2016 Olympics. The support we get with our new Rugby Canada location here on the West Shore, being able to train as professional athletes where we have all of our national teams for rugby in one central area. That’s quite an upper-hand advantage for us as a team. Things seem to be coalescing. We’re getting more visible, you know, in all kinds of ways.

Q: By the time the team reaches the Paris, France finals [in June 8-9, 2018], they’ll have played in 6 global cities and on four continents! Very glamourous! Yet, behind the scenes, Bryan, what’s in place to ensure the team stays in top form?
A: I think your readers would be surprised to know how intensive the programming is. Own the Podium, and other government funding sources, have incredible amounts of data on these teams to make sure that athletes are at 100% percent; and if they’re not 100%, they’ll want to know what’s being done about it.

Essentially, these women are high-powered machines. They wear G.P.S. units to monitor every aspect of their performance in the field, like how far and how fast they run and so forth. They have a full-time analyst who films every second of their training and can break down every single analytic of the game. The women are checked for hydration levels, how they are sleeping, what kind of food they eat. They have daily team meetings, multiples  coaches, therapists. Everything that’s needed is being done.

The women are really quite humble about what they do everyday because that’s just a normal for them. But it’s not school sport where the athletes and fans show up for a game and that’s it. It’s not like that anymore!

Canadian Women Rugby 7s Olympians in Action
Napanee, Ontario native Brittany Benn continued to show her dominance on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2017, helping Canada capture their third Cup Title as tournament champions in Sydney!

CANADA’S WOMEN’S SEVENS TEAM
LOOKING TO BE THE BEST IN 2018

Q: So how are your chances looking for 2018?
A: It’s a big season and unlike any season before. First priority is finishing well on the World Series, ideally in first place. That would set us up for a good draw at the World Cup and our campaign there. Commonwealth is a new competition for us and we’re definitely excited to be part of it. As athletes, we will go one tournament at a time, and when you’re on the field representing your country, it doesn’t matter the competition, you give it all you have.

It should make for an exciting year of rugby—especially for all of us here on the West Shore. For the fourth year  running, the HSBC World Series is coming to Langford, Westhills Stadium in May 12-13, 2018. Be there!

Upcoming 2018 Games for Canada’s Rugby 7s Women’s Team

April 13-15 | World Cup – Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast, Australia
April 21-22 | HSBC World Series, Kitakyushu, Japan
May 12-13 | HSBC World Series, Langford, Canada
June 8-9 | HSBC World Series Finale, Paris, France

2017 was another extremely successful year for Canada’s women’s sevens team, who reached new highs and  continued to establish themselves as one of the best teams in the world.  After starting the season with a sixth-place finish in Dubai last December, Canada made a couple New Year’s resolutions and kicked off 2017 in celebratory  fashion, claiming their third ever cup title at the Sydney Sevens in early February.

They followed that up with a third-place finish in Las Vegas before making back-to-back cup finals in Kitakyushu and Langford, where they lost to New Zealand in both matches. The second-place finish at the Canada Sevens was their best ever on home soil and marked the first time Canada had reached three cup finals in one season.

Canada wrapped up the 2016-17 season with a third-place finish at the Clermont Sevens, giving them five straight top-three finishes to end the season.

With 98 points, Canada finished third place in the WSS standings, two points behind Australia. It was Canada’s largest point total in a single season and the 16.3 points per round were also their most on average in series history. It continued a remarkable run of success for the women’s sevens program, which saw its fifth-straight top three finish on the circuit.

“Sydney was definitely the highlight last season, as well as making three finals,” said captain Ghislaine Landry. “We showed better consistency last season and it’s important that we continue to build off that. Every year we are building belief that we can be the top team in the world and last season was a big step forward.”

Canadian Women Rugby 7s Olympians Play Hard
Canada’s Julia Greenshields is tackled by a French player during the 2017 HSBC Sydney Sevens in Australia.

Canada was the only other team aside from defending series champions New Zealand to win a tournament in 2017. Canada has now finished behind New Zealand and Australia in three consecutive seasons.

Canada has now made twenty-seven straight WSS cup quarterfinals, and while the consistent results should be  applauded, Landry thinks there are bigger fish to fry. “It shows we are consistently doing enough to be top three, but  that’s not good enough,” said Landry. “A few years ago, that was the goal, but we don’t set goals to be top three anymore, we want to be the best team. We have to keep pushing forward breaking through walls and finish off those tight games. We can beat any team.”

The head coach has the same self-belief. “I don’t think we are far behind New Zealand,” said Tait. “Two of three games last season came down to the last play of the game to decide it and we won three of five over Australia, including beating them in their Sydney tournament. So, we know we can beat them, but to consistently get  results against them we have to be clinical and control the ball possession from start to finish.”

Rugby Canada announced Britt Benn, Bianca Farella, Julia Greenshields and Ghislaine Landry as the four finalists for the Women’s Sevens Player of the Year Award.

“We have to keep pushing forward breaking through
walls and finish off those tight games.
We can beat any team.”

However, with all the success comes more eyes and raised expectations and Landry believes there’s still plenty of room to grow. “We cannot be complacent,” said Landry. “With all the growth we’ve made in Canada, other countries  are also making huge strides. To stay competitive, we need to continue to work hard to improve our game and the  structures around them.”

With the Commonwealth Games and World Cup both on the horizon, 2018 could prove to be a critical year for the
women’s program.

“We set goals for winning the World Series title, World Cup and Commonwealth games in 2018,” said Tait. “Those  are all big challenges for us and finishing fourth in Dubai makes it a little more so but we believe in ourselves and have a history of improving and getting stronger as the season progresses. That being said, the series looks the most  competitive to date so as always, we are going to have to work hard for it.”

It should make for an exciting year of rugby.

Canadian Women Rugby 7s Own the Podium
Canada’s Women’s Sevens Team kicked off 2018 with a Bronze Medal performance in Sydney, defeating Russia 40-12 on January 27.
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