JONES: Canada looked OK to open HSBC Rugby Sevens in Edmonton

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To say that Canada’s performance on Saturday was unexpected would be an understatement, as both teams position themselves to go deeper into Sunday’s playoffs.

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It was Canada Day in September. And a debutants’ ball too.

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Saturday in Edmonton, the 33rd different city to host an HSBC World Rugby Series event since its birth in 1999, saw a surprising number of Canadian flags waved by an enthusiastic crowd reduced to the coronavirus pandemic, estimated at around 8,000 to 10,000 socially estranged fans in the stands at Commonwealth Stadium who had no good reason to bring them.

Canada’s men’s and women’s entries into the HSBC World Rugby Sevens have finally produced something positive to show for their sad seasons so far. And both insisted on presenting virtually entire rosters of newbie players, including the women who had three teenagers in the roster.

In total, the 16-team tournament features 37 Tokyo Olympians. And Canada’s strategy is shared by most countries, with 60 percent of rookie players on the tournament tour being prepared for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

It was certainly a happy crowd frequently shown on international TV channels, enjoying the all-day costume party in the stands for the first time and unquestionably enjoying the unique atmosphere of rugby sevens.

Both Canadian teams had disappointing Tokyo Olympics, with the men finishing eighth and the women, which Jen Kish of Edmonton directed to Olympic bronze in Rio, finishing ninth.

To say that Canada’s performance on Saturday was unexpected would be an understatement, as both teams positioned themselves to go further in Sunday’s playoffs than they did a week ago.

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The Canadian men, who finished sixth at the Canada Sevens in Vancouver, started with a 21-12 victory over Hong Kong and beat Mexico 47-0 before ending the day with a dose of reality as they lost 49 -0 against the dominant South African Blitzboks. .

Canada’s Jake Thiel, one of only three Tokyo Olympians left on the squad, said the crowd environment created for the squad in Edmonton didn’t hurt.

“The atmosphere is crazy. This audience has long been hungry for top rugby and I think they love it. They show a lot of love. You can’t beat that. Beautiful weather. Beautiful stadium. And a large crowd.

The Canadians, playing an entire squad over non-Olympians other than one, were unable to compete with Great Britain and the United States in Vancouver in the first round of the specially created “Fast Four” women’s tournament. .

But on Saturday, they didn’t lose a game and gave themselves a chance to make it to Sunday’s final.

The Canadians opened the day at 9 am against a team from the United States who had beaten them twice the previous week in the women’s extra-attraction “Fast Four” event.

Fancy Bermudez, the 19-year-old Edmonton debutant, put on a brilliant breakout game on first possession to take a 7-0 lead in what turned out to be a 19-19 draw.

If that result was surprising, the fact that they then went on to tie in a 7-7 tie with Vancouver event champion Great Britain before ending their day by crushing Mexico 40-12 was shocking. .

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“It was a great day. I’m really proud of the girls and how we have built this past weekend,” said Canadian coach Kelly Russell. “It’s really exciting for us. a very good crop of new generation players who have worked hard over the last 18 months without competition.

“We’re really excited about the potential we have in Canada and part of it has come out today.

Otherwise, the first day of the event which was predicted and projected as a festival of flogging, went pretty much as advertised.

Example: Mexico.

Due to the loss of powers of rugby sevens in Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, France and Samoa due to travel issues related to COVID-19, countries like Mexico have been invited to participate in the proceedings of the only touring events to be held in 18 months.

The Mexican men arrived in Edmonton with a 25-game losing streak and quickly extended it to 28. Outclassed 184-0 in their three group games in Vancouver, they scored 175-0 in Edmonton, including 70- 0. eruption against Hong Kong.

In both events, Mexico managed to be drawn into a group play pool with dominant South Africa and lost 53-0 to Vancouver and 56-0 to Edmonton. In their last four games against the Blitzboks, they have been outscored 240-0.

Outclassed 136-5 in three games on Matchday 1 in Vancouver, they were outscored 86-7 in the team’s three games on Saturday.

And then there was Jamaica, a nation that had never played in an HSBC Rugby Sevens Series event before.

Outclassed 136-5 in their three games on Day 1 in Vancouver, Jamaica was outscored 141-12 on Day 1 in Edmonton.

Email: [email protected]

On Twitter: @byterryjones

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