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Canadian women qualify for Olympic rugby sevens competition in Rio

05/22/2015 11:07 EDT | Updated 05/22/2016 05:59 EDT
AMSTERDAM - It was a day to remember for John Tait's women's rugby sevens side as it battered the opposition Friday en route to becoming the first Canadian team to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

Fresh from blanking Spain and dumping the host Dutch on Day 1 of the final event of the Women's Sevens Series season, World Rugby officials notified the Canadians that they had secured enough points to book their ticket to Rio de Janeiro.

The top four teams in the overall standings at the end of play Saturday automatically qualify.

Coming into Amsterdam with 96 points, Series leader New Zealand had already guaranteed its Olympic participation. Canada and Australia, tied for second with 76 points, joined the Kiwis thanks to Friday's results.

"I'm very proud of all of them and grateful to be a part of this team," Tait said. "We know can focus on building towards a gold-medal finish next year in Rio."

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

After getting the good news, the Canadian women handily defeated France, whom they will meet again in the Cup quarter-finals Saturday.

The Americans, led by former Canadian coach Ric Suggitt, would seem in the driver's seat after also going 3-0 Friday to secure a quarter-final matchup with Spain. The Americans upset New Zealand 34-5 in pool play.

Saturday's other quarter-finals are Australia versus Russia and England versus New Zealand.

Thanks to its lead in the overall standings, New Zealand won the Series for the third year in a row just by showing up in Amsterdam, the last of six stops on the circuit.

New Zealand opened Day 1 of the tournament by running in six tries in a 32-0 victory over Fiji before downing South Africa 31-7. But the Kiwis stumbled in their last game of the day against the Americans.

It was the third loss in two tournaments for New Zealand, which came into London last week riding a 36-match winning streak.

Canada opened by thumping Spain 29-0 on tries by Bianca Farella, Magali Harvey, Ghislaine Landry, Karen Paquin and Britt Benn. Landry added two conversions.

The Canadians trailed 5-0 early against the Netherlands but rallied for a 34-10 win on three tries by Landry and singles from Jen Kish, Paquin and Benn. Landry added two conversions.

For Landry, it was career tries No. 50, 51 and 52.

Hannah Darling, Harvey, Paquin and Benn scored tries in the 26-5 win over France. Landry kicked three conversions.

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.

The 12-country Olympic fields will be filled out be regional qualifying tournaments and a world repechage competition. Host Brazil does not need to qualify.

The Canadian men will have to get past the surging U.S. Eagles at the North American qualifying event in June in North Carolina.

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