The HSBC Canada Sevens is the sixth round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with the hugely competitive first five tournaments all delivering different winners: South Africa (Dubai), New Zealand (Cape Town), Australia (Sydney) and Fiji (Hamilton) and USA (Las Vegas).
A sell-out is expected at BC Place this weekend as series leaders South Arica look to extend their top of the table seat, USA hope to ride the wave of victory in Vegas, and hosts Canada hope to thrill the home crowd.
As excitement builds ahead of the weekend’s rugby action in Vancouver, it is not only series points on offer but also crucial Rugby World Cup 2018 seedings points which will determine the all-important draw for the tournament at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Click here for more on the Rugby World Cup Sevens.
In Vancouver Pool A will see host Canada battle USA, Australia and Uruguay. The home team make two changes to the side that missed out on the Challenge Trophy last weekend as Matt Mullins and Lucas Hammond replace Andrew Coe and Luke McCloskey. Canada’s Nathan Hirayama who is currently eighth on the all-time points list with 1296 will pass the great Waisale Serevi (1310) if he scores his fifteenth point this weekend. USA see Maka Unufe and Joe Schroeder out due to injury giving Brett Thompson and Nick Boyer an opportunity to wear the Eagle. While Thompson is a veteran on the scene, Boyer will be competing in his second ever tournament. They both join a stellar line up including Folau Niua, second leading scorer through five stops in the 2017-18 Series, Carlin Isles who with 15 total tries this season only needs one more to reach 100 total career tries and Perry Baker leading try scorer in Canada with 17. Australia’s head coach Andy Friend names the same 12 players that just missed out on 5th place to New Zealand in Las Vegas. Uruguay also remain unchanged.
In Pool B, runners up in the HSBC USA Sevens, Argentina make just one change to their squad as Tomas Passaro comes in for was Maximiliano Filizzola. They face England, Wales and Samoa in this weekend’s action-packed display. England Head Coach Simon Amor has made two changes to his squad as injuries sustained to Tom Bowen and Mike Ellery last weekend provide opportunity for Ryan Olowofela and Charlie Hayter to return to the 12-man squad with Will Edwards playing the role of 13th man.19-year-old Olowofela – who scored two tries in Hamilton after making his World Series debut in Sydney the weekend before – will look to make another big impression on the world stage. Charlie Hayter also bolsters England’s experienced squad for the forthcoming tournament as he returns from an injury sustained earlier this season.
“We were disappointed with our day two and three results in Las Vegas, and while we were pleased with the effort and some aspects of our game where we made improvements, our accuracy was not consistent enough to win the one score games," said head of England Sevens Amor. "With the competitiveness of the World Series and the fine margins between success and failure we need to consistently get all parts of our game right in every match, that is what it will take to win in Vancouver. We’re really excited about playing at the indoor stadium in a tournament that we thrived in last year – we will adapt our style of play to suit this venue and the wide, dry and fast pitch which we enjoy – we know that the atmosphere under the roof will be incredible and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Wales who are one try away from a total of 2000 all-time tries and make two changes to their Las Vegas squad as Owen Jenkins and Will Talbot-Davies replace Jack Maynard and Chay Smith. Samoa who will be captained by Alatasi Tupou make just one change, Elisapeta Alofipo in for Tom Losefo.
In Pool C Fiji, Kenya, France and Spain will take to the field in day one in search of a quarter final place. Fiji, currently third in the standings who scored their 25,000th point in Las Vegas name Uluiyata Batinisavu and Waisea Nacuqu in the squad, replacing Jasa Veremalua and Vasikali Mudu. Kenya make one change with Samuel Ngethe replacing Erick Ombasa. France, winners of the Challenge Trophy in the USA, make two changes to their squad as Johan Demai-Hamecher replaces Paul Bonnefond and Pierre Popelin comes in for Stephen Parez. Spain Make Just one change as Ignacio Rodriguez-Guerra replaces Javier De Juan.
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell feels the biggest challenge to his team at this weekend's HSBC Canada Sevens will not be the opponents they face, but rather their own ability to play as a team. The Blitzboks make one change to their side as Rhuan Nel joins the squad, ahead of facing Russia, Scotland and New Zealand in Pool D, with a number of players running out in BC Place for the first time. More than half of the squad members have a combined total of tournament caps that less than that of Kyle Brown (63), the Blitzboks’ most experienced player. “The junior players are a week more experienced than last weekend in Las Vegas, so they have another opportunity to improve and contribute,” said Powell. “The reality is that if I had the likes of Rosko Specman and Werner Kok available, I would have played them. They are not here though and I need to play the youngsters, but I am pleased about that. They need to get time on the field to develop as players, and this weekend is a great opportunity not only for them, but for our system as well.”
The All Black Sevens make three changes from the team that finished in fifth place last weekend with Luke Masirewa and Kurt Baker replacing the injured Tim Mikkelson and Vilimoni Koroi, while Joe Webber has recovered from illness to join the 12; Sione Molia will be the 13th man. Head Coach Clark Laidlaw said the loss of Mikkelson and Koroi is tough, but they are confident in the team selected. “Tim is a mainstay of the team so playing without him is something no one wants but it gives guys a chance to step up, Dylan and Luke will have to play some big minutes so that’s great for them. Losing a star play maker like Vili gives Andrew and Ngarohi a chance to play in that position, so we see it as an exciting opportunity.”
Edinburgh Rugby’s Ally Miller has joined up with the Scotland 7s squad, the 21-year-old replaces Jo Nayacavou who sustained a groin injury in Scotland’s Trophy semi-final defeat to Canada in Las Vegas last weekend. James Fleming also drops out having suffered a calf injury on day one in Nevada. Kyle Steyn made his debut in Felming’s absence and will replace him in the matchday twelve at BC Place. Russia will be led by German Davydov as Aleksandr Afanasev replaces Vladislav Lazarenko.