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Veteran Canadian trio to lead Canada's Olympic rugby sevens squads

Team Canada's Ghislaine Landry holds off a Team Russia player during action at the HSBC Canada Women's Sevens at Westhills Stadium in Langford, B.C., on Saturday, May 27, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Veterans Harry Jones, Nate Hirayama and Ghislaine Landry will lead the Canadian rugby sevens squads at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Canadian women won bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Tokyo marks the Canadian men’s first Olympic appearance.

The Canadian men qualified for the Olympics back in July 2019, going undefeated at the Rugby Americas North Sevens tournament in the Cayman Islands. With the U.S. having already qualified by virtue of their position in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings, Canada dispatched Bermuda (twice), Barbados, Mexico, Guyana and Jamaica by a combined score of 293-15.

“It’s an honour to compete for Canada at Tokyo 2020,” Hirayama, the men’s co-captain, said in a statement. “We travel the world representing Canada but this will be my first Olympic Games and we’re excited to get to Tokyo. It’s been an unprecedented year but we’ve been training hard and look forward to competing.”

Hirayama, 33, stands third on the World Series all-time scoring list with 1,859 points.

Fiji won Olympic men’s gold in Rio, defeating Britain 43-7 in the final. South Africa took the bronze, beating Japan 54-14.

Australia topped the women’s podium, defeating New Zealand 24-17. Canada claimed the bronze with a 33-10 win over Britain.

The Canadian women’s squad features six players who were in Rio: Landry, Britt Benn, Bianca Farella, Kayla Moleschi, Karen Paquin and Charity Williams. And Kaili Lukan, who is also going to Tokyo, is the younger sister of Megan Lukan, who was part of the Rio squad.

“The opportunity to go to another Olympic Games with this team is very exciting,” said Landry. “For the last five years, we’ve been training hard and hunting down podium finishes. I’m proud of our team and I know we are heading into the Games with a ton of talent and huge potential.”

The 33-year-old Landry, the all-time leading scorer on the World Series with 1,356 career points, finished the Rio Games second in scoring with 41 points (five tries, eight conversions).

The women’s preparations for the Games were interrupted by the team’s formal complaint under Rugby Canada’s harassment and bullying policy in January. Longtime coach John Tait stepped down in April in the wake of an independent review that said while the conduct described in the complaint reflected the experiences of the athletes, it did not fall within the policy’s definition of harassment or bullying.

Australian Mick Byrne has taken over as coach. Former England sevens star Henry Paul is in charge of the men.

Both Canadian teams have had little competition in recent months other than the Emirates Invitational Sevens, played over two weekends in Dubai in April. The women won the tournament on the first weekend while the men placed fifth. In the second tournament, both teams finished runner-up.

Prior to that the Canadian men last competed on the World Series in March 2020 when they finished third at the Canada Sevens in Vancouver. The pandemic halted play after that with the Canadians in eighth place overall after six events. The women were third after five events when their schedule halted.

Rugby sevens will take place at the Tokyo Stadium, which hosted matches at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Football and modern pentathlon will also use the 48,000-seat venue.

New Zealand, the U.S., and Australia joined the Canadian women in qualifying for the Tokyo field via their World Series performance. Britain, China, Fiji, Kenya and Brazil joined host Japan through regional qualification while France and Russia advanced via the recent Olympic repechage tournament in Monaco.

On the men’s side, Fiji, the U.S., New Zealand and South Africa qualified via their World Series performances. Canada, Argentina, Australia, Britain, Kenya and South Korea joined Japan through regional qualifying. Ireland qualified via the repechage.

Canadian Olympic Rugby Sevens Teams

Women

Elissa Alarie, Trois-Rivieres, Que.; Olivia Apps, Lindsay, Ont.; Britt Benn, Napanee, Ont.; Pamphinette Buisa, Gatineau, Que.; Bianca Farella, (Montreal; Julia Greenshields, Sarnia, Ont.; Ghislaine Landry, Toronto; Kaili Lukan, Barrie, Ont.; Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake, B.C.; Breanne Nicholas, Blenheim, Ont.; Karen Paquin, Quebec City; Keyara Wardley, Vulcan, Alta.; Charity Williams, Toronto.

Coach: Mick Byrne.

Men

Phil Berna, Vancouver; Connor Braid, Victoria; Andrew Coe, Markham, Ont.; Justin Douglas, Abbotsford, B.C.; Mike Fuailefau, Victoria; Lucas Hammond, Toronto; Nathan Hirayama, Richmond, B.C.; Harry Jones, West Vancouver; Patrick Kay, Duncan, B.C.; Matt Mullins, Belleville, Ont.; Theo Sauder, Vancouver; Jake Thiel, Abbotsford, B.C., Conor Trainor, Vancouver.

Coach: Henry Paul.