The moment of truth for the men’s Canadian sevens side is looming, and next week their destiny will be decided.
It hasn’t been ideal preparation for the Americas and Caribbean Olympic Qualifier by any means. A dispute with Rugby Canada had threatened to derail any hopes they had, while the departure of Damian McGrath as head coach and injury to Connor Braid add to their woes.
Henry Paul is the interim head coach and is a renowned figure in the rugby world, having won caps for New Zealand in league and England in union.
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Nathan Hirayama, Harry Jones and Mike Fuailefau have all been included in the squad for the tournament, while Andrew Coe, Josiah Morra and Cooper Coats are also in the mix after impressing in the final two legs of the HSBC World Sevens Series in London and Paris.
There were also places in the squad for Pat Kay, Matt Mullins, Isaac Kaay, Phil Berna and Adam Zaruba.
Paul said he was expecting big things from this crop of players. In a statement, he said: “We’re all really focused heading into this tournament. There’s a lot of good energy in the squad right now, but we know we have a job to do. We have seen some exciting attacking rugby from this group, but I think there is more we are capable of producing.
“There’s a lot of experience, talent and drive here with a couple of younger guys that are an exciting addition. We’ve been working hard these past couple of weeks to get ourselves ready on every level.”
Canada rallied towards the end of the World Series to finish in the top eight in London, before winning the Challenge Trophy in Paris.
Braid, who was injured in London, remains hopeful that his teammates can succeed. Speaking to Rugby Canada, he said: “I have the utmost confidence in this group and strongly believe the boys can do it and qualify for the Olympics.”
The Canadians have been drawn alongside Mexico, Bermuda and Barbados for the pool stage of the qualifiers.