SPORTS

Canadian women's rugby sevens team can book Olympic berth this weekend

05/21/2015 02:44 EDT | Updated 05/21/2016 05:59 EDT
One week after reaching the final in London, the Canadian women's rugby sevens team can book its ticket to the 2016 Olympics this weekend in Amsterdam as the Women's World Series wraps up for the season.

The top four teams in the overall standings at the end of play Saturday automatically qualify for Rio de Janeiro, where rugby sevens will make its Games debut.

With 96 points, Series leader New Zealand has already guaranteed its Olympic participation. Canada and Australia, tied for second with 76 points, will join the Kiwis barring a total collapse and the teams behind them making it deep into the competition.

France and the U.S. (both on 62 points) and sixth-place England (60 points) would seem the likely teams fighting for the last Olympic berth available this weekend. Russia, in seventh spot with 54 points, is also mathematically still in the hunt.

Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and England have already qualified for the men's Olympic field. England will be represented by Team Great Britain at the Games.

Should things go according to plan this weekend, the rugby sevens squad will be the first Canadian team to qualify for the 2016 Games.

As host, Brazil doesn't need to qualify. The other seven men's and women's teams in the Olympic fields will be decided at regional tournaments and one-last world repechage competition.

While the Olympics are the ultimate goal, Canadian coach John Tait says the plan this weekend is simply to win as many games as possible and let Olympic qualification take care of itself.

Canada bounced back from a disappointing sixth-place finish on home soil in Langford, B.C., to make the final in London. The Canadian women were the stars of the show and led Australia 17-5 with four minutes left in the final, only to give up three tries in a row as their record in Series finals fell to 0-3.

"It felt like we went into a bit of a 'try not to lose' instead of trying to win, and got into that defensive mindset," said Tait.

"Australia's a quality side which we gave too many opportunities to in the end. And we didn't do a good job of managing the clock in those last few minutes."

Tait says Canada also made it difficult for themselves in earlier games against Russia and the U.S.

In Amsterdam, Canada has been drawn in Pool C with Spain, the host Netherlands and France.

It should make for lively play. No. 10 Spain ended New Zealand's unbeaten streak at 37 matches last week while France is fighting for an Olympic berth. The Dutch, playing in their first series event of the season after failing to secure core team status last year, will be looking to please the hometown fans.

Still Canada's combined record against the three in Series play is 9-3.

Canada opens play Friday against Spain before facing the Netherlands and France.

Elissa Alarie has returned home after injuring her anterior cruciate ligament in the semifinal win over the U.S. last Saturday. She has been replaced by Hannah Darling.

With 246 points on the season, Canada's Ghislaine Landry is just four points behind Series leader Portia Woodman of New Zealand.

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Canada Roster

Britt Benn, Guelph Redcoats, Napanee, Ont.; Hannah Darling, Peterborough Pagans, Warsaw, Ont.; Bianca Farella, Town of Mount Royal, Montreal; Magali Harvey, Club de Rugby Quebec, Quebec City; Sara Kaljuvee, Toronto Scottish, Ajax, Ont.; Jennifer Kish (capt.), Edmonton Rockers RFC, Edmonton; Ghislaine Landry, Toronto Scottish, Toronto; Mandy Marchak, Capilano RFC, Winnipeg; Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake Rustlers, Williams Lake, B.C.; Karen Paquin, Club de Rugby Quebec, Quebec City; Ashley Steacy, Lethbridge Rugby Club, Lethbridge, Alta.; Natasha Watcham-Roy, Hull Volant, Gatineau, Que.

Head Coach: John Tait.

Assistant Coach: Sandro Fiorino.

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