July 18th, 2024

Canadian women look to kick off new WXV rugby tournament with win over Wales

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on October 19, 2023.

With top-ranked England next in line, Canada coach Kevin Rouet is looking for a win over Wales when the Canadian women open the WXV tournament in Wellington, New Zealand.

The WXV is a new three-tier annual competition with the fourth-ranked Canadians in the elite WXV 1.

The Canada-Wales game is scheduled to kick off at Sky Stadium at 4 p.m. local time Saturday (11 p.m. ET Friday in Canada).

The Canadian women are coming off 50-24 and 29-12 losses last month to England in Exeter and London, respectively. But they have won their last six meetings with No. 6 Wales, winning 33-0 the last time they met in August 2022 in Halifax in a World Cup warm-up.

“For sure we need to win against Wales,” the French-born Rouet said Thursday from New Zealand.

“After that we have England, six days after Wales,” he added. “I think I want us to show we are way closer than the score sometimes (shows) and even get the win against England. I think we have the potential to win against England and the girls need to believe that. I tell them every day. But we need to believe in it.”

The Canadians gave England a scare before falling 26-19 in last November’s World Cup semifinal in Auckland. The Red Roses then lost 34-31 to host New Zealand in the final while France blanked Canada 36-0 in the bronze-medal game.

After Wales, the Canadians face England in Dunedin on Oct. 27 and No. 3 France in Auckland on Nov. 3.

The WXV top tier features the top three teams from the Women’s Six Nations (England, France, Wales) and the top three from the Pacific Four Series. The Canadians qualified by finishing runner-up to No. 2 New Zealand in the Pacific Four Series which wrapped up in July in Ottawa. No. 5 Australia was third.

“There’s a lot of excitement about this tournament, given that it’s the first year and that it kind of marks a new global calendar for women’s rugby, trying to build on what we’ve learned from the men’s game but also build a calendar that is fitting for the women’s game,” said Canada captain Sophie de Goede.

“I think we have a really cool solution in this WXV tournament and I’m excited to see how it goes.”

WXV 1 will use a cross-pool format with no relegation in its first cycle. XMV 2 and 3 are already underway in South Africa and Dubai, respectively.

WXV 2 features the seventh-ranked U.S., No. 8 Italy, No. 9 Scotland, No. 11 Japan, No. 13 South Africa and No. 15 Samoa. WXV 3 consists of No. 10 Ireland, No. 12 Spain, No. 18 Kazakhstan, No. 19 Fiji, No. 23 Kenya and No. 25 Colombia meet in WXV 3 in Dubai.

Rouet has made three changes in the forwards and five in the backs from the starting 15 for his team’s last outing, the 29-12 loss to England on Sept. 30.

“You can see that as both a kind of rotation but also just rewarding people who trained very well during practice,” he said of the personnel moves.

Two of the changes involve players who are not available for the New Zealand trip.

Sevens captain Olivia Apps slots in at scrum half with Claire Gallagher continuing at fly half.

“Apps played very well the past two games against England,” said Rouet.

Gallagher won her first cap in July, coming off the bench in Canada’s 52-21 loss to New Zealand during the Pacific Four Series.

“She has a good foot. She’s fast. She makes good decisions on the pitch,” said Rouet, who can also play Alexandre Tessier and Julia Schell at No. 10.

Tessier starts at inside centre against Wales while Schell is on the bench.

Taylor Perry has also played fly half under Rouet but was not available for the New Zealand trip because of university commitments. Prop Olivia DeMerchant also misses out due to her job.

Gabrielle Senft starts at blindside flanker, thanks to her red card in the game against England in London being subsequently downgraded to a yellow.

Prop DaLeaka Menin, who starts on the bench, can become the seventh Canadian woman to reach 50 caps while lock Ashlynn Smith, another replacement, can win her first cap.

Canada Lineup

McKinley Hunt, King City, Ont., Saracens (England); Emily Tuttosi, Souris, Man., Exeter Chiefs (England); Alexandria Ellis, Ottawa, Ont., Saracens (England); Tyson Beukeboom, Uxbridge, Ont. Ealing Trailfinders (England); Laetitia Royer, Loretteville, Que., ASM Romagnat (France); Gabrielle Senft, Regina, Stade Bordelais (France); Sara Svoboda, Belleville, Ont., Loughborough Lightning (England); Sophie de Goede, Victoria, Saracens (England); Olivia Apps, Lindsay, Ont., Lindsay RFC; Claire Gallagher, Caledon, Ont., University of Ottawa; Sarah-Maude Lachance, Victoriaville, Que., Lons Section Paloise (France); Alexandra Tessier, Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, Que., Exeter Chiefs (England); Shoshanah Seumanutafa, White Rock, B.C., UBC; Florence Symonds, Hong Kong, UBC; Madison Grant, Cornwall, Ont., Cornwall Claymores.

Replacements

Gillian Boag, Calgary, Capilano RFC; Brittany Kassil, Guelph, Ont., Guelph Redcoats; DaLeaka Menin, Vulcan, Alta., Exeter Chiefs (England); Ashlynn Smith, Abbotsford, B.C., University of Calgary; Courtney Holtkamp, Rimbey, Alta., Red Deer Titans Rugby; Justine Pelletier, Rivière-du-Loup, Que., Stade Bordelais (France); Julia Schell, Uxbridge, Ont., Castaway Wanderers; Krissy Scurfield, Canmore, Alta., University of Victoria.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2023

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