Dublin – Ireland, August 24, 2012: Oceania Nations, Canada’s men and women are both fancied to secure places at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 this weekend as the NACRA (North American Caribbean Rugby Association) Sevens 2012 takes place on home soil in Ottawa.
In the women’s section, the Canadians are the top seeds in the five-team tournament, which also features Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico and Cayman Islands and, as one of the best women’s Sevens sides in the world will be favourite to join automatic qualifier USA in Moscow next June.
Jen Kish will captain a Canadian side featuring five new players amid experienced players like Ottawa local Julianne Zussman as they seek to successfully defend the regional title won by the Canadian Maple Leafs with victory over Jamaica.
“I am very confident in the girls that I will be leading and the Canadian fans will not be disappointed with our performance when we take the field,” admitted Kish ahead of the tournament, which runs alongside the men’s event, at Twin Elm Rugby Park.
“We have been training very hard for this tournament and will come out guns blazing. With that being said, we will not and do not take any team lightly no matter who they are. We treat each match as if it were a championship match.”
Canada’s women will kick off their campaign against Mexico at 10:20 local time on Saturday, before taking on Cayman Islands and Jamaica. They will then open proceedings on Sunday at 09:20 against Trinidad & Tobago with semi finals and the final at 16:20 to come.
Meanwhile, in the men’s section, Canada and USA will be favourites to secure the two qualification spots up for grabs. Both finalists at Twin Elm Rugby Park will qualify for RWC Sevens 2013 in Moscow next June, swelling the number of teams confirmed to 18 with the Oceania qualifier also taking place this weekend in Sydney.
Canada will be hungry for success in the first international Sevens tournament held in the country, not only with RWC Sevens qualification in mind but also their preparations for the HSBC Sevens World Series after achieving core status for 2012/13. They have named a squad packed with World Series experience with John Moonlight and Phil Mack returning to international rugby after long rehabilitations from serious injuries, and a new captain in Nanyak Dala.
USA, another core team on the World Series, have also named a strong team for the NACRA Sevens, but they will certainly not be underestimating the challenge of the Caribbean teams this weekend, particularly Guyana who have won the tournament for the past six years.
“The squad has trained well this week,” said USA coach Alex Magleby. “We have a few new faces in Carlin Isles and Jack Halalilo and two other players are joining us from the Eagles Fifteens’ squad (Taylor Mokate and Luke Hume), plus some of our more established stars from the HSBC Sevens circuit.”
“Now that Sevens is an Olympic sport, teams will have prepared well, and every game will be tough. We are looking forward to the competition. It will be another tough test for the team.”
Oceania Nations Target Place at RWC Sevens,
The countdown to Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow is gaining momentum and as the Oceania regional qualifier takes place this weekend, competition for qualifying spots for the 24-team tournament is hotting up. Eight teams qualified from the last edition in Dubai – champions Wales, runners-up Argentina, England, Fiji, Kenya, New Zealand, Samoa and South Africa – and with Russia qualifying as hosts, there are 15 places available via regional qualifiers around the world.
The European qualifier in July saw Portugal, Spain, France, Georgia and Scotland win through to Moscow and this weekend sees the Oceania qualifier tournament take place in Sydney, Australia. Despite Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa having already qualified, two more places are available to teams from the Oceania region. Doing battle over the two days in Sydney for the title of Oceania Sevens champions and the right to progress to RWC Sevens 2013 are American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Tonga.
The Oceania region has an impressive pedigree in Rugby Sevens with New Zealand winning the HSBC Sevens World Series in 2011/12 from Fiji with Samoa fourth.
On paper Australia and Tonga will be fancied to win through to Moscow but the likes of PNG and Cook Islands in particular will be keen on upsetting the from book. Samoa will also fancy their chances of winning the tournament in Sydney. So there is a lot at stake.
The Samoans, the Sevens World Series champions in 2009/10, are always an impressive performer and had a very strong Series in 2011/12, winning the USA Sevens in Las Vegas and being runners-up to Australia in Japan and Fiji in London. Samoa also finished third in South Africa while winning the Plate competition in Hong Kong and Scotland.
Australia like Samoa is a core team in the HSBC Sevens World Series. It finished third in the Series in 2009/10 and has been sixth in the standings for the past two years. Australia won the Japan leg of the Series in Tokyo in April and will host the 2012/13 opening round on the Gold Coast in October.
Coach Michael O’Connor is confident of winning through to Moscow. “The guys know what’s at stake, we know the gravity of the occasion but the fact is we’re playing this tournament in Australia in front of a home crowd.”
“We’re heading into the tournament with a fair amount of confidence because we have experienced players in this squad. A large chunk of our squad is from Sydney so they’ll be comfortable in their surroundings and North Sydney Oval is a great ground that will lend itself to Sevens.” —- IRB