Nine Olympic bronze medallists have been named in Canada's squad for the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series in Dubai on 1-2 December, although inspirational captain Jen Kish will be absent having aggravated an old injury in training.
Ghislaine Landry (pictured), who scored two tries in an 18-point haul in their bronze medal match victory over Great Britain at Rio 2016, will take over the captaincy not only in Dubai but for the whole of the 2016-17 series with Kayla Moleschi and Bianca Farella taking more of a leadership role in support.
While Canada will field nine medallists at The Sevens Stadium in Landry, Britt Benn, Hannah Darling, Farella, Megan Lukan, Moleschi, Ashley Steacy, Natascha Watcham-Roy and Charity Williams, they have lost the vast experience of Kelly Russell and Karen Paquin who have left the sevens programme and are currently in Europe playing for the 15s side along with former sevens players Magali Harvey and Elissa Alarie.
"The big goal for us this first year of the new quad is to build upon the depth we have to ensure we can continue to compete long-term with the other top teams," explained coach John Tait, whose side finished third in the 2015-16 series. "We have had some turnover from Rio but have been grooming the younger squad members to be ready to now step up into those roster spots.
"We need to use the series this season to develop them under the pressure it provides and put us in a good position to contest for another World Cup at the end of next season and, of course, beyond to Tokyo 2020. I am pretty confident we will remain competitive this season and stay in the top four with the returning players and the leadership in the group we have retained."
Canada will play England, Brazil and Spain in Pool C in Dubai, an event they are yet to reach the final at in four series visits to the desert venue.
"We want to get off on the right foot and be competitive and always have the expectation we can compete for the cup, but in the big picture Dubai is an opportunity to gauge where we are now in regards to where we will likely need to be to contest for the World Cup in two year's time.
"The team going is as fast and as skilled as we have ever fielded previously, along with the ability to potentially play in different positions more so than what we have had in the past. So that will hopefully give other teams real challenges in matching up with us as we develop and improve our tactics throughout this season."
Canada squad: Britt Benn, Hannah Darling, Bianca Farella, Julia Greenshields, Sara Kaljuvee, Ghislaine Landry (captain), Megan Luke, Kayla Moleschi, Beanne Nicholas, Ashley Steacy, Natasha Watcham-Roy, Charity Williams
New-look squad for England
England coach Simon Middleton has named a new-look squad for the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2016-17.
With a number of sevens stalwarts focusing on 15s with Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 only nine months away, Middleton has selected five members of the Team GB squad in new captain Abbie Brown, Heather Fisher (pictured below), Alice Richardson, Jo Watmore and Amy Wilson-Hardy.
Those Olympians, who finished fourth at Rio 2016, are joined by five players who will make their series debuts in Dubai on 1-2 December in Lauren Cattell, Deborah Fleming, Katie Mason, Kelly Smith and Millie Wood.
England have been drawn alongside Canada, Spain and new core team Brazil in Dubai.
“Our focus this season is very much to qualify for the 2018 World Cup through the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series,” insisted Middleton, who will be supported by former England sevens player James Bailey in Dubai.
“We have a mix of new players and returning Olympians within the squad. It is important that we invest game time with the new players as tournament experience is critical if we are going to be competitive on the world’s biggest stages down the line.
“The squad has been working hard to become physically conditioned to play sevens and we look forward to getting the world series underway.”
England squad: Natasha Brennan, Abbie Brown (captain), Lauren Cattell, Heather Fisher, Deborah Fleming, Katie Mason, Fran Matthews, Alice Richardson, Kelly Smith, Jo Watmore, Amy Wilson-Hardy, Millie Wood.