11/29/2012 03:07 EST | Updated 01/29/2013 05:12 EST

Canada confident heading into Dubai rugby sevens, both men and women in action

After a week of training mixed in with some sightseeing and a photo op with Maradona, it's down to business for the Canadian rugby team at the Dubai Sevens.

The Canadian men open play Friday in Pool D against Australia, France and the U.S.

"On paper, it's a good draw," Canadian sevens coach Geraint John said Thursday.

Canada has beaten both Australia and France in the past and is coming off a 22-21 win over the U.S. at the Gold Coast Sevens in Australia in October.

"We've got a good opportunity but we still have to do the basics and perform on the day," John added.

"Sometimes you never know what might happen or which way the ball bounces. One simple mistake will allow a team in. But I think the players and everybody are pretty excited."

A crowd of 50,000 is expected Friday to take in the start of the competition.

Dubai also features a 12-country woman's event, which marks the start of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series. Future stops are in Houston, China and the Netherlands.

The Canadian women, who won in Dubai last year, are in a pool with China, New Zealand and Russia.

Canada has also entered a second women's side, dubbed the Maple Leafs, in a six-team international event — one of several other competitions that are part of the Dubai event.

Both the Canadian men and women are gearing up for the Rugby World Cup Sevens next June in Moscow. Olympic qualification for 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro is also a future goal.

With Canada back as a core team on the expanded men's sevens circuit, John believes the team is better prepared going into Dubai.

"I'm pleased with where we are from an organizational point of view. Every player this year has been at a tournament. That's a plus side, we don't often have that."

The Canadians are enjoying the heat of the United Arab Emirates after some mixed weather in the United Kingdom.

The Canadian sevens and 15-man teams trained together there with some cross-pollination during the November tour international matches against Samoa, Russia and the Maori All Blacks.

Sean Duke, Jeff Hassler, Ciaran Hearn, Phil Mack, John Moonlight, Nathan Hirayama and Chauncey O'Toole were all involved in the 32-19 loss last Friday to the Maori All Blacks in Oxford.

The sevens squad includes two 18-year-olds: Justin Douglas and Lucas Hammond.

In Dubai, the Canadians had a training match with Argentina on Tuesday with Maradona in attendance. They asked the soccer legend to pose with them and he happily obliged.

The sevens team tries to get a state of the local surroundings everywhere it goes and Dubai has been no exception.

The Canadians squeezed in a boat cruise around the Dubai marina and visit to the Burj Kalifa, the world's tallest building at more than 828 metres and 160 storeys (the CN Tower measures 553 metres).

"Mentally it probably did the players a world of good," John said of the sightseeing. "It just refreshes the mind. It also gets them out of their hotel and out of their rooms




Nanyak Dala Saskatoon; Thyssen de Goede Courtenay, B.C.; Justin Douglas, Abbotsford, B.C.; Sean Duke, Victoria; Lucas Hammond, Toronto; Jeff Hassler, Okotoks, Alta.; Ciaran Hearn, Conception Bay, N.L.; Nathan Hirayama, Vancouver; Harry Jones, North Vancouver; Phil Mack, Victoria; John Moonlight, Pickering, Ont.; Chauncey O’Toole, Belle Isle, N.B.

Coach: Geraint John.


Bianca Farella, Montreal; Magali Harvey, Quebec City; Jennifer Kish, Edmonton; Ghislaine Landry, Toronto; Mandy Marchak, Winnipeg; Barbara Mervin, Peterborough, Ont.; Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake, B.C.; Karen Paquin, Quebec City; Cheryl Phillips, Toronto; Kelly Russell, Bolton, Ont.; Ashley Steacy, Lethbridge, Alta.; Brittany Waters, Vancouver.

Coach: John Tait.

Canada Maple Leafs

Elissa Alarie, Trois Rivieres, Que.; Andrea Burk, North Vancouver; Jessica Dovanne, Victoria; Arielle Dubissette-Borrice, Toronto; Megan Gibbs, Barrie, Ont.; Julia Greenshields, Sarnia, Ont.; Frederique Rajotte, Markham, Ont.; Genevieve Thibault, Quebec City; Amanda Thornborough,) Brandon, Man.; Julianne Zussman, Ottawa.

Coach: Sandro Fiorino.