The Canadian men’s rugby sevens team will land in the deep end at the Tokyo Olympics, opening against Rio 2016 runner-up Britain before facing defending Olympic champion Fiji later in the day.
The July 26 games will be the second and eighth of the day. Host Japan kicks off the men’s competition against Fiji, which defeated Britain 43-7 to win gold at the 2016 Games in Rio.
The Canadian men wrap up Group B play against Japan in the opening match July 27. The Japanese finished fourth in Rio, beaten 54-14 by South Africa.
The top two teams in each of the three pools plus the two best third-pace finishers advance to the quarterfinals.
The Canadian women, who won bronze at Rio, open July 29 against Brazil before facing Fiji. They finish off Group B play the next day against France.
The Australian women won gold in Rio, defeating New Zealand 24-17. Canada claimed the bronze with a 33-10 win over Britain.
The Olympic sevens draw had been previously announced. On Wednesday, the tournament schedule was unveiled.
The rugby sevens competition will last six days in total, with the men’s medals decided on July 28 and the women’s on July 31. Play 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.
Tokyo marks the Canadian men’s first Olympic appearance.
The men qualified 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.
Canada’s men stood eighth in the World Series standings after finishing third in March 2020 at the Canada Sevens in Vancouver, the last tournament to take place before the Series was halted by the pandemic. New Zealand topped the series standings ahead of South Africa and Fiji.
The Canadian women were tied with Australia on points behind leader New Zealand in the overall standings. The Canadians finished on the podium in four of the five women’s events that took place before the shutdown, with three second-place finishes and one third.
France, Fiji and Brazil, Canada’s first opponents in Tokyo, are ranked fourth, seventh and 12 respectively.
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.
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 is the younger sister of Megan Lukan, who was part of the Rio squad.
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 Canadian men.
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.
—Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press