No room for error for Canadian men at Rugby Sevens World Cup in Cape Town
Canada coach Henry Paul knows there is no room for error at the Rugby 7s World Cup in Cape Town.
The tournament features the “winner takes all” knockout format introduced four years ago at the San Francisco tournament, with a single loss knocking teams out of the championship.
The 24-nation men’s field in Cape Town will see 10th-seeded Canada take on No.23 Zimbabwe on Friday, with the winner taking on No.7 France in the round of 16.
In contrast, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series stages begin with a pool match, with the top teams in each group then progressing to the knockout tie.
“I would have preferred a swimming pool [format]. That way you work your way into the pool,” Paul said. “But I like that we can play against Zimbabwe. We’ve seen a lot of them in the recent Challenger Series. They’re a threat, of course, but I’d like to think our guys can do a job against them. And that gives us a chance to get a game under our belt before hopefully facing France. We know how difficult it will be.”
France shut out the Canadian men 42-0 on day two of play at the recent Los Angeles Sevens with the Canadian squad feeling the effects of injuries and a tough Day 1 with games against New Zealand, South Africa South and the United States.
“We tried a few things and it didn’t work for us,” said Paul, who has represented both New Zealand and England as a player. “But the effort was there, in spades. That’s all you can ask for. Now that we have this tournament under our belt and we have these same guys coming here, hopefully on Day 1 in Cape Town we can get through the first game and that will give us a good warm up in France.
“But obviously we’re not rushing. We respect Zimbabwe. We know they have athletes and if you give them time and space they can hurt you.
The French also beat Canada earlier at the Dubai circuit (26-14), Malaga, Spain (38-5), Singapore (40-12) and London (19-14).
The Rugby 7s World Cup takes place until Sunday at the Cape Town Stadium.
The Canadian men’s team features a change from the Los Angeles roster. Cooper Coats, who was injured in the World Series Final in California, is replaced by Matthew Oworu, who has recovered from the minor injury that kept him out of the Los Angeles event.
Veteran Phil Berna is the Canadian men’s captain.
The women’s competition begins with knockout matches in the round of 16. The Canadians, seeded fifth, will face China (12th) and the winner will face either the United States, seeded fourth, or Poland (13th).
The best men’s performance at the Rugby 7s World Cup was a fifth-place finish in 2001 in Argentina. They were 12th four years ago in San Francisco.
The Canadians, New Zealand’s runners-up at the 2013 event in Moscow, finished seventh four years ago.
Like the Canadian women, the men’s program went through many changes with a series of dropouts after the Tokyo Olympics, where the men finished eighth.
The Canadian men finished a disappointing 14th overall in their nine-event World Series campaign. But Paul sees positives, noting close games against South Africa and a win over Argentina.
“Apart from France in Los Angeles on day 2, then maybe New Zealand who were 26-5 [loss on Day 1], there were no big scores against us. We participated in almost every game until the last two or three minutes.
“I think the team is really capable. But we are immature in terms of World Series events across the team. We don’t have the experience. So those times when you want clarity and you want clear heads, sometimes we get a little frantic. You will only learn this as you gain experience and they become tougher and tougher.
The men finished tied for seventh in July at the Commonwealth Games.
Relegation was off the World Series table this season with England, Scotland and Wales deciding to compete as Great Britain from the 2023 series. aligns with Olympic participation. meant no relegation in 2022 as England, Scotland and Wales are replaced by Great Britain on the men’s side.
In 2023, the 14 main men’s teams will be Canada, Argentina, Australia, Great Britain, Fiji, France, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Samoa, l South Africa, Spain and the United States. They will be joined by Uruguay, who won the last World Rugby Challenger Series of the month.
One invitational team will participate in each round, with 16 teams participating in each tournament.
South Africa marks the eighth edition of the men’s sevens World Cup and the fourth for the women. Canada qualified for all of them.
New Zealand have won the last two editions of the men’s and women’s seven-a-side World Cups.