Canadian men, women each go 1-1 on first day of HSBC France Sevens
TOULOUSE, France — Thomas Isherwood scored two tries to help Canada blank Uruguay 26-0 Friday at the HSBC France Sevens.
Josiah Morra and Alex Russell also scored tries for the 14th-ranked Canadians against No. 11 Uruguay on Day 1 of the penultimate stop of the men's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Lockie Kratz, Max Stewart and Isherwood each added a conversion.
Isherwood opened the scoring after stealing the ball from Uruguay's James McCubbin at the breakdown and racing to the try-line without opposition, giving a thumbs-up as he touched the ball down. Morra added a second try just before halftime, beating two defenders with a fine solo run down the sideline.
The loss could be costly for Uruguay, which is looking to avoid joining Canada in next week's relegation playoff. The South Americans beat No. 13 Kenya 19-5 in their opening match.
Morra and David Richard also scored tries in Canada's earlier 29-12 loss to Series-leading New Zealand. Kratz kicked a conversion. The Canadian men wrap up Pool A play Saturday against No. 13 Kenya, a side led by former Canada coach Damian McGrath.
The eighth-ranked Canadian women also went 1-1 on the day, losing 26-19 to the third-ranked U.S. before beating invitational side Poland 35-7. The Canadians conclude Pool A play Saturday against No. 1 New Zealand.
Sabrina Poulin, in her return to the sevens squad after representing Canada in 15s at the Rugby World Cup in November, scored two tries against the U.S. Sophie de Goede, captain of the Canadian 15s team, also scored in her World Series debut. Olivia Apps kicked two conversions.
Canada got two tries from Maddy Grant and singles from Julia Greenshields, Poulin and de Goede against Poland, which was trounced 50-0 by New Zealand earlier in the day.
With the wins over Poland and the U.S., ensuring a spot in Saturday’s cup quarterfinals, the New Zealand women clinched a seventh World Series title in 10 years. The Black Ferns sevens squad won five of the six previous tournaments this season.
Toulouse marks the seventh and final stop of the World Series season for the Canadian women, who are missing 11 players through injury.
Both Canadian teams will be looking to up their game ahead of the Rugby Americas North Sevens Olympic qualifier in Langford, B.C., in August.
The Canadian men have more immediate business, facing a relegation battle to stay in the World Series.
The number of core teams on the men's circuit is being reduced to 12 from 16 next season to match the number of women's sides and to align with the Olympic competition structure.
The 15th-ranked core team following Toulouse will be relegated, with Japan currently in the hot seat. The Japanese have 16 points, eight fewer than Canada.
The teams ranked 12th, 13th and 14th at the end of Toulouse — currently Spain (48 points), Kenya (37 points) and Canada (24 points) — will move into a four-team relegation playoff together with Tonga, the Challenger Series 2023 winners, in the 11th and final round of the season in London on May 20-21.
The playoff winner becomes the 12th core team on the 2024 Series, while the other three teams will have to go through regional sevens championships in order to qualify for the 2024 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.
Uruguay came into Toulouse with 49 points, one point ahead of No. 12 Spain with both teams will be looking to avoid the relegation playoff in London.
Spain did not help its cause, losing 14-0 to No. 10 Britain 21-19 to No. 2 Argentina in Pool B. The Spaniards led the Pumas 19-7 at the break but could not retain the lead.
Uruguay is in its first season as a core team in the World Series and has made the Cup quarterfinals twice already.
The top four men's and women's teams at the end of the season secure automatic qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The New Zealand men have already assured themselves of an Olympic berth with the three remaining spots to be filled over the next two weekends. Argentina can qualify in Toulouse by making the Cup semifinals, while No. 3 Fiji can secure their spot by winning the Toulouse tournament.
On the women's side, Ireland, Fiji and Britain are battling to join New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. in Paris.
The tournament winner collects 22 points with the payoff diminishing by position, with the teams tied for 15th earning just one.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2023.
The Canadian Press