May 24th, 2024

Canadian men face tough road at Paris Olympic rugby sevens qualifier in Monaco

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on April 20, 2024.

Team USA's Steve Tomasin passes the ball off as Team Canada's Elias Ergas during the men's gold medal match at the Rugby Sevens Paris 2024 Olympic qualification event at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C., on Sunday, August 20, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The Canadian men have been drawn in Pool B with Britain, China and Uganda at the World Rugby Sevens Repechage in June in Monaco.

Twelve men’s and 12 women’s teams will compete in the last-ditch qualifier to decide the last remaining men’s and women’s team to complete the rugby sevens field at this summer’s Paris Olympics.

Saturday’s draw in Monaco was attended by Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco.

The Canadian women booked their ticket to Paris last August by blanking Mexico 53-0 in the final of the Rugby Americas North Sevens.

The Canadian men dropped into the June 21-23 Monaco repechage after losing 24-14 to the U.S. at the North American regional qualifier in Langford, B.C.

Stiff challenges await the Canadian men with South Africa’s Blitzboks the favourite to claim the last remaining place in the Paris field.

Canada is one of four men’s core teams on the HSBC SVNS circuit, formerly known as the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, bidding to win their way to Paris in Monaco.

South Africa, which won the opening event of the season in Dubai, currently stand seventh in the SVNS standings after six events while Britain is ninth, Spain 10th and Canada 12th.

The rebuilding Canadian men, who have scored the minimum one point in five of six events this season, face a relegation battle in the final event of the SVNS season May 31 to June 2 in Madrid to retain their status as a core team on the world circuit.

The Canadians have lost 20 straight games since defeating France 33-7 on Dec. 10 to finish seventh in Cape Town.

Other men’s teams in the Monaco field are Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

The women’s field features Argentina, China, Czechia, Hong Kong, Kenya, Jamaica, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Samoa and Uganda.

New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji and Australia joined host France in the Olympic men’s field by finishing in the top four of the 2023 SVNS series.

Uruguay (South America), Ireland (Europe), the U.S. (North America), Kenya (Africa), Samoa (Oceania) and Japan (Asia) joined them by winning their regional qualification tournaments.

New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the U.S. qualified for the women’s Olympic field as the top teams in the 2023 World Series. Canada, Brazil, Britain, South Africa, Fiji and Japan won regional qualification tournaments to join host France.

Fiji’s men won Olympic gold in both Rio in 2016 and Tokyo in 2021.

Canada failed to make it out of the repechage tournament before Rio, losing 14-12 to Russia in the quarterfinal. Canada qualified for Tokyo and finished eighth.

New Zealand are the reigning women’s Olympic champions with Australia earning gold in Rio. The Canadian women won bronze in Rio and placed ninth in Tokyo.

The 2024 Olympic rugby sevens competition kicks off at the Stade de France two days before the July 26 opening ceremonies.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2024

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