The 12 captains came together on the picturesque 14th hole at Bear Mountain Resort in Langford on Wednesday as the countdown continues to the fifth round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019 this weekend.
Canada come into their home tournament in buoyant mood after ending a two-year wait for a Cup title with a dramatic victory over England in the final in Kitakyushu last month, and will be hoping for their first success on Canadian soil.
Captain Ghislaine Landry said: “We’re just building the belief after Kitakyushu – it was a tough tournament for six games and to come away with the win was a good demonstration of what we’re capable of doing.
“The energy all week has been buzzing – we can feel it in our team and in the community so hopefully we’re going to take that, put it on our backs and carry it forward.”
Canada will face Olympic champions Australia, Ireland and this weekend’s invitational team Brazil in Pool A.
Pool B sees Kitakyushu runners up England and defending HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens champions New Zealand paired with Russia and China.
England captain Abbie Brown said: “The shock results in Kitakyushu are exactly the reason that I love sevens. We’ve been through a lot as a squad and actually it’s that progress and hard work that’s getting us to where we want to be.
“We know that the teams in our pool are going to come out fighting. Russia are a very physical team, as are China, and New Zealand are obviously world-class, so it’s going to be a tough pool but every pool is at the moment. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Kitakyushu bronze medallists USA, meanwhile, will tackle France, Fiji and Spain in Pool C.
The top four teams in the 2019 series will secure their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, joining already qualified Japan as the host nation, and avoid having to negotiate the regional qualifiers or global repechage tournament.
The first of those places could be confirmed in Langford this weekend with New Zealand currently leading the way with 72 points, followed by Canada (66), USA (64) and Australia (56) with France (46), Ireland (38) and England (37) hoping to close the gap to the top four with a strong tournament.
New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini said: “We want to keep in that top four because we definitely want to be in Tokyo next year and qualifying through the series this season will make it a lot easier for next year. I think we’re progressing really well and obviously still leading in the series so we’re pretty happy with how we’re going at the moment.”
The action gets underway at Westhills Stadium at 10:22 local time (GMT-7) on Saturday with New Zealand against Russia, the side that ended their record-equalling 37-match winning run with a 17-17 draw in Kitakyushu.