The best team in the world!
How many times has that phrase been used to describe a Canadian sport outside of hockey?
Canada's national senior women's sevens rugby team will wake up tomorrow in Dubai, rightfully being able to carry that extraordinary label with them.
They are the best in the world.
Becoming the acknowledged world leader at an Olympic sport like sevens rugby is not an easy task. Whispers of such talk began to appear when Canada won four consecutive major sevens rugby tournaments in 2011.
It all began at the Las Vegas Sevens. Using valuable funding dollars to their upmost, Canada's women went to Las Vegas both to compete and to hold a player development camp, with over 50 elite athletes in attendance. In front of a packed house at Sam Boyd Stadium, and on national television, Canada's women defeated the Netherlands to claim their first tournament victory of the year.
Later, at the Hong Kong Sevens, Canada defeated France in the final, by a score of 28 - 14. Rugby is enormously popular in France, and yet the Canadians left no question about who was the better side on that day. It is some measure of the distance Canada's sevens rugby program has travelled that Canada's development team defeated a similar French squad this weekend, at the 2011 Sevens tournament in Dubai.
Whispers of this country's abilities began to grow louder, but with some justifiable dissent. After all, the reigning World Champions from Australia had not yet met the Canadians at an international tournament, and neither had England or the powerful New Zealand Black Ferns. By the time that Canada won the 2011 Amsterdam Sevens, going undefeated in the process, this country's players must have known that they had, indeed, assembled a very special group.
In November, another Canadian sevens development team travelled to the North American and Caribbean Sevens Championships in Barbados, and again went undefeated, emerging as tournament champions. By the time they returned from the sunny south, Canada's coaches knew the opportunity that was waiting for them in Dubai.
The International Rugby Board had officially sponsored the first ever IRB Women's Sevens Challenge Cup; an event designed to test the best women's sevens teams in the world against one another. Such an event was desperately needed, as women's Sevens is due to be included in the 2016 Olympic Games, in Rio. The World Champion Australians answered the call to come to Dubai, as did the English; only the legendary New Zealand Black Ferns declined to attend the IRB tournament.
Canada's women went a perfect 3 - 0 on Friday, downing the mighty Australians in their third and final match on Day #1 of the Dubai competition. After dealing the U.S.A a heavy defeat in the semi-final on Saturday, the Canadians stepped on to the field Saturday night, with only England's women standing between them and the title of world's finest team.
Canada would not be denied.
Led on by the fiery play of Captain Mandy Marchak, Canada absorbed early England pressure and an England try, before their first opportunity appeared. An England player was caught lying over the ball off a Canadian chip and chase, and was sent off with a yellow-card. While England were down to six players, Canada took full advantage.
Cheryl Phillips touched down under the posts from the resulting penalty possession, quickly followed by another Ghislaine Landry score to see Canada take a 14 - 7 lead into half-time.
From the beginning of the second-half Canada looked as though they had the trophy in their sights. Another inspiring break from Landry resulted in Mandy Marchak bowling her way past multiple England defenders to take the score to 19 - 7.
England searched for a way back, but when Ashley Steacy executed a perfect chip and chase over the England defence, the wind went out the challenger's sails. Steacy gathered her own kick at full-pace, and with a massive smile on her face, sprinted under the posts to secure another Championship win for her country; the most important and most decisive win yet.
This victory at the first ever IRB Women's Sevens Challenge Cup is the fifth tournament victory for Canada in 2011. Such an outstanding year, having been capped with this major tournament win, without question ranks Canada as the number one Sevens team in women's world rugby.
"This is going to be huge for us", said veteran Kelly Russell afterwards. The powerful forward, who played every minute of every game for her country in Dubai, could not stop smiling as she spoke after the match. "It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of fitness and a great group of teammates to get to where we are. We are so hoping that the support this team has earned will continue to grow and build, with these accomplishments."
When asked what they wanted their fellow Canadians to know about the team when they awoke to the news, both Russell and Captain Mandy Marchak had the exact same answer.
"Look out for us! We have improved, but we know we all still have more to give. Things are only going to get better from here on out."
That is a scary thought for any team that is pondering the idea of knocking Canada from their newly won perch atop the women's Sevens rugby world.
Final Score: Canada (26) - England (7)
Canada Tries: Phillips, Landry, Marchak, Steacy
Canada Conversions: Kish (3)
Jessica Dovanne - Velox Valkyries(Victoria, BC)
Magali Harvey - Club Rugby de Quebec/St. F.X. University (Quebec, QC)
Jen Kish - Edmonton Rockers (Edmonton, AB)
Ghislaine Landry - Toronto Scottish RFC (Toronto, ON)
Mandy Marchak - Capilano RFC (North Vancouver, BC / Winnipeg, MN)
Barbara Mervin - Velox Valkyries(Victoria, BC)
Kayla Moleschi - Lethbridge RFC/ University of Lethbridge (Williams Lake, BC)
Cheryl Phillips - Toronto Scottish RFC (Toronto, ON)
Kelly Russell - Toronto Nomads (Bolton, ON)
Ashley Steacy - Lethbridge Rugby Club (Lethbridge, AB)
Brittany Waters - Meraloma Athletic Club (Vancouver, BC)
Julianne Zussman - Town of Mount Royal RFC (Montreal, QC)
John Tait - Head Coach
Sandro Fiorino - Assistant Coach
Kim Oslund - Therapist
Anne Le Lannic - Tour Manager
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.