NEWS
07/14/2017 19:41 EDT | Updated 07/16/2017 08:05 EDT

Canadian women's rugby rookies vow to be on podium in next month's World Cup

In just under a month, Brianna Miller, Alex Tessier and Frédérique Rajotte will be in Ireland, representing Canada at the Women's Rugby World Cup.

They are just three of seven Quebecers who will be competing at the Aug. 9 to 26 tournament, at which Team Canada hopes to build on its accomplishments at the 2014 World Cup, when the women took home the silver medal.

Miller, Tessier and Rajotte are World Cup rookies, but they will get plenty of guidance as the 28-woman roster is made up of 18 returning players. 

"Our team is made up of strong experienced players, which is extremely important because anything can happen at this tournament," said Miller. 

"Look at the last World Cup: Ireland eliminated New Zealand. I don't think anyone saw that coming."

Skills honed kicking soccer ball

All three Quebec rookies began their sports careers playing soccer, switching to rugby in high school or CEGEP.

Miller was first introduced to the sport while attending St. Thomas High School in Pointe-Claire. Rajotte played for her high school team in Markham, Ont., before moving to Montreal. Tessier was at Dawson College when a friend of hers convinced her to give the school rugby team a try.

"I had no idea what rugby was, but they had me play in the first game," Tessier, from Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, recalled. "I didn't really know what I was doing, but I liked it, so I kept playing."

All the running and kicking in soccer has helped hone their rugby skills, the teammates say. 

After ending up on the podium in 2014, you can argue Team Canada is under more pressure coming into this year's World Cup than when they were the underdogs. Their finish as the runners-up to England shocked the rugby world.

Setback in New Zealand 

The three players admit their performance last month at the International Women's Rugby Series in New Zealand — one win and two losses — didn't quite measure up.  

"I think we put in a lot of effort, but we realized that we can do so much better," said Rajotte. "And we will — come the World Cup."

The Canadians don't have the same opportunity to train together as the British and New Zealand players have: those teams have professional contracts. However, the Quebec trio agrees it's more about the quality than the quantity of their practice — and they all say they know they will be ready.  

Big cheering section

Don't be shocked to see a lot of Canadian fan support in Dublin and Belfast next month.

Miller is expecting between 12 and 14 friends and family members to make the trip — including her two biggest cheerleaders, her parents Mary and Michael Miller.

Rajotte's cheering section will be just as big: her father Jean-Pierre Rajotte and mother Dominique Dufour booked their tickets to the Emerald Isle before Rajotte even knew if she had made the team.

Canada's first game is against Hong Kong on Aug. 9, followed by a match against Wales on Aug. 13. The most anticipated game is against the mighty New Zealand team on Aug. 17.

Team Canada leaves for Ireland on July 26. For the players, that can't come soon enough.

"We can't wait to make magic happen," Miller says.