Canada Women were able to resume team training last week as the squad’s gaze begins to refocus on the rearranged Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Restrictions remain in place in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19, and, as players adjust to their new routines, they will know the importance of harnessing some of the momentum they had built up prior to the pandemic.
New Zealand were undoubtedly the team of the truncated 2019-20 season, winning four HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series events in a row. But Canada were right on their heels.
The Canadians headed into the HSBC Sydney Sevens at the beginning of February having competed in two of the previous three World Series Cup finals.
Canada’s path to gold was blocked in both Dubai and Hamilton by the Black Ferns Sevens, but those results had helped the North Americans close the gap in the standings on second-place Australia.
And there was little time to dwell on the result in Hamilton as the World Series headed straight to Sydney where, as episode four of 24 Sevens shows, the players were keen to enjoy some well-deserved down time.
“The back-to-backs are a bit tough on the body, so it’s nice to come out,” Brittany Benn said as she visited an animal sanctuary.
“We work hard and sometimes it’s just nice to get off the pitch, out of the hotel and catch some sun, since we don’t get the rays back home during this month much, and just spend some time with the girls and have a good time while we are out here.”
Spending time with koalas and kangaroos clearly had a restorative impact on the squad, as Canada kicked off the Sydney Sevens with a 33-10 win over Brazil and 20-14 defeat of Fiji.
Day two began with continental bragging rights as Bianca Farella, Ghislaine Landry and Charity Williams all crossed the whitewash to secure a 21-7 victory against the USA.
‘We’re just a great big family’
That result set up a semi-final against Australia, and the Canadians showed little sign of fatigue at Bankwest Stadium.
Keyara Wardley scored two second-half tries to add to scores from Landry, Farella, Kaili Lukan and Karen Paquin as the hosts were beaten 34-0 in a statement win.
A second successive Cup final appearance, and third in four World Series events, was theirs but standing between them and glory would yet again be New Zealand.
The Black Ferns Sevens progress had been sealed with victories over Japan, Russia, England and France, and it looked as though the team was as in sync as ever during a stellar season.
“We’re just like a great big family, our management are like Mums and Dads to us, our team-mates are like sisters,” Stacey Fluhler said on 24 Sevens.
“We live and breathe rugby every single day with each other, so to connect with each other every single day and have a really strong culture, I think that helps our success on the field. Because obviously off it we have that trust we have that connection — and we just love each other!”
Canada began the game strongly with Williams’ try levelling the scores at 7-7 in the seventh minute. But New Zealand would flex their collective muscle in the second half to seal a 33-7 victory.