Former Canadian captain Jen Kish will miss the debut of women’s rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Games due to injury.
Kish, who led Canada to a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, aggravated a neck and hip injury at a recent camp in San Diego.
“It would’ve been amazing to take part in another historic moment in rugby with these trailblazers but sometimes ur plans in life get altered & this is 1 of those times. I wish my mates & coaches all the best … Enjoy the moment ladies. With u in spirit,” tweeted Kish.
The 29-year-old, inducted into her native Edmonton’s Sports Hall of Fame recently, announced in December this would be her last year on the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about Jen Kish.
Kaili Luken will also miss the Gold Coast Games, a long-term absentee after knee surgery.
But the rest of the injury news is all good for Canadian women’s coach John Tait as Bianca Farella, Sara Kaljuvee and Charity Williams draw back into the squad after missing the first two stops of the World Series circuit following off-shoulder surgery.
“These are experienced players that bring a lot of X-factor and speed to the team,” said Tait. “So we’ve got a lot of options. We should have a much deeper bench to turn to on Day 2 and over the course of the tournament.”
Kaljuvee saw action last month in Japan with the Maple Leafs side. Farella and Williams haven’t played since the 2016-17 season finale in France last June.
Tait says all three have recovered nicely, posting personal bests in speed and power.
Tait will likely need the depth, given the April 13-15 Gold Coast competition precedes World Series stops in Japan (April 21-22) and Langford, B.C., on May 12-13.
The Canadian men, whose squad was announced last week, have World Series stops in Hong Kong (April 6-8) and Singapore (April 28-29) sandwiched around the games.
It marks the sixth men’s rugby sevens competition at the Games and the first for women.
Led by captain Ghislaine Landry, the Canadian women will be looking to add to their Olympic bronze and Pan American Games gold.
The eight-country women’s field features the top three teams in the world and five of the top 10. Third-ranked Canada in a group with No. 2 New Zealand, No. 11 South Africa and unranked Kenya. The other pool features No. 1 Australia, No. 9 England, No. 10 Fiji and unranked Wales.
Australia, New Zealand and Canada made it to the Rio medal podium two years ago.
The top two teams in each pool advance.
The Australian women have won the first two stops on the World Series without a loss and did not concede a point last time out in winning the Sydney stop, defeating Spain 29-0 (twice by the same score), Papua New Guinea 50-0, France 43-0, Russia 31-0 and New Zealand 31-0.
Canada was third in Sydney and fourth in Dubai.
The Canadian women open April 13 against South Africa and Kenya before facing New Zealand on April 14. The goal will be to beat the Black ferns so as to avoid a semifinal match with Australia.
Landry and Julia Greenshields have both scored more than 60 points in the first two stops on the World Series. Greenshields leads the circuit in tries with 12 this season while Landry tops the all-time scoring list with 906 points.
The Canadians have been to Australia twice this year already, with most having played at Robina Stadium, home to the games rugby sevens competition when not hosting the NRL’s Gold Coast Titans.
Tait says the women believe “that we’re more than capable of the gold. So that’s what we’re targeting.”
With an eyes to focusing on the World Series, Tait had pondered fielding a secondary squad at the Gold Coast. But Australia’s dominance, coupled with just five stops on the circuit this season, means Canada’s chances of overtaking the team known as the Pearls are slim.
So the team is now focusing on the Commonwealth Games.
“We going to rely on the strength of the overall squad to see through us the two weekends (Gold Coast and Japan) and just try and manage players as best as possible,” said Tait.
The Canadian women will have a travelling reserve staying at the Athletes Village and another player there on standby.
Tait believes the Australians can be beaten, saying they had set up their season to peak at the Sydney World Series event and the Commonwealth Games.
“That could catch up with them as the Series goes on,” he said.
The Canadian women leave for Australia on April 6.