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Canadian teams combine for just one win on Day 1 of Dubai rugby sevens

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A young Canadian men's side suffered three losses Friday at the Dubai Sevens, the opening event of the 2022 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

The Canadians lost 35-19 to Australia, 29-14 to Olympic champion Fiji and 24-14 to France. They will face Spain on Saturday in the ninth-place semifinal.

The Canadian women split Day 1, losing 28-26 to Olympic bronze medallist Fiji before defeating Ireland 21-17. They wrap up pool play Saturday against Britain and Russia.

The first of two Dubai event is being played behind closed doors at the Sevens Stadium. The second event, Dec. 3-4, will welcome spectators back.

Both Canadian teams have gone through extensive turnover since the Tokyo Olympics, where the men finished eighth and the women ninth.

The Canadian men's starting seven against Australia, their first game of the day, featured just three Olympians in captain Jake Thiel, Andrew Coe and Theo Sauder. While the Canadian starters came into the game with a combined 63 World Series tournaments under the belt, three of the players on the bench had never appeared on the circuit with the other two having been to one tournament apiece

The Australian starters had a combined 98 tournament appearances between them, with three debutants among their starters and five on the bench.

Canada led 19-7 early in the second half before the Australians reeled off four straight tries in short order, helped by a yellow card to Josiah Morra.

Morra scored two tries and Nicholas Allen added a single for Canada, which led 12-7 at halftime. Cooper Coats kicked two conversions.

Morra and Coats had a try apiece in the loss to Fiji, which raced into a 17-0 lead before Canada cut the lead to 17-14. Coats booted two conversions.

Fiji improved its record against Canada to 50-6-0. The Canadians had won the last meeting, 26-31, in Vancouver in March 2020.

Morra and Coe scored tries in the loss to France with Coats converting both tries.

The Fijians, who had 11 debutants, finished the day at 3-0-0, as did Argentina and South Africa. The quarterfinals will be Argentina versus Ireland, South Africa versus Australia, the U.S. versus Britain, and Fiji versus Kenya.

In women's play, Australia and Britain went 2-0-0. Fiji and France finished the day at 2-1-0.

The Canadians are the least experienced team on the women's side of the tournament. The only returnees from the Olympic team are Elissa Alarie, Olivia Apps, Pam Buisa and Breanne Nicholas, who captains the squad.

Nicholas, Alarie, Olivia De Couvreur and Asia Hogan-Rochester scored tries for Canada against Fiji. Nicholas added three conversions.

Fiji led 14-0, surviving a Canadian rally to go into halftime up 21-12. Canada scored two tries in the second half to lead 26-21 with a minute remaining before Fiji scored a late converted try under the posts by Laisana Likuceva to put the Canadian women away.

Buisa, Alarie and Renee Gonzalez scored tries for Canada against France. Nicholas kicked three conversions.

Due to the pandemic, the 2021 women's season was cancelled although the Canadian women took part in two mini-events — in Vancouver and Edmonton in September — with several top teams unable to take part because of travel restrictions.

New Zealand’s men’s and women’s teams, the 2020 Series champions, and the Samoan men won't participate in Dubai due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2021.

The Canadian Press