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Rugby sevens 1st Canadian team to qualify for Rio Olympics

05/22/2015 02:56 EDT | Updated 05/22/2016 05:59 EDT
Flying down to Rio. That's what Canada's women's rugby sevens team will be doing after winning two games Friday in Amsterdam during the World Rugby Sevens Series to become the first Canadian team to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

This marks the first time in history a Canadian women's rugby team has competed at the Olympics.

Canada's women came into the competition tied for second in the world rankings with Australia, with the top four countries assured berths in the 2016 Olympics. New Zealand wrapped up the Sevens Series title, and the No. 1 position, just by appearing in the Amsterdam tournament, but made it official with 32-0 and 31-7 victories over Fiji and Spain.

Canada clinched on the strength of a 29-0 win over Spain and a 34-10 triumph over the Netherlands.

Bianca Farella, Magali Harvey, Ghislain Landry, Karen Paquin and Britt Benn had tries in the win over Spain, while Landry added two conversions.

In the victory over the Netherlands, Canada trailed 5-0 early before storming back for the win. Landy had three tries (career Nos. 50-52) and two conversions. Other tries were added by Jen Kish, Paquin and Benn.

"I let the team know, we had a quick cheer and hug and now we just want to make sure we finish the day strong," said head coach John Tait.
 
With 76 points, Canada is still tied for second with Australia in this year's standings. The Canadians finished third in the series the previous two seasons.
 
"It's the fruition of a big plan that we put together almost five years ago to get to this point as well as the goal we set at the beginning of the year as a program to get one of those [four] qualifying spots," said Tait. "Our goal was to have it wrapped up as soon as we could to alleviate pressure and I think we came pretty close to that."
 
After finishing sixth in Langford at last month's Canada Sevens, the women responded with their best performance of the season last week in London, where they finished runners-up at the London Sevens.
 
The women have now made the Cup quarter-finals in 14 straight series events.

While the sport continues to grow in Canada, Tait is hoping the thought of playing rugby at the Olympics resonates with children across the country.
 
"It can be a big catalyst, a launching point for rugby," said Tait. "Hopefully there's young kids watching. There is quality rugby in Canada and there's a pathway there to attract those blue chip athletes at an earlier age.
 
"It's not just about 2016, we can start and build a legacy for others to follow."

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