Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Sevens Coach Tackling Problems as Olympic Qualifier Looms in June

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Sevens Coach Tackling Problems as Olympic Qualifier Looms in June

Article excerpt

Canadian sevens coach tackling problems

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More than halfway through the HSBC Sevens World Series, it's clear the Canadian men's rugby team will have to qualify for the Olympics the long way.

That means a June trip to Cary, N.C., for a regional qualifier and a showdown with the U.S. for the one Olympic sevens berth up for grabs in North America and the Caribbean.

The U.S. blanked Canada 20-0 in the Cup quarter-finals at the recent sevens stop in Las Vegas. After some bad breaks, the Canadians "lost their way a bit" according to coach Liam Middleton.

The Americans finished fourth at the tournament while Canada, third in Sin City last season, tied for seventh.

"The game against the U.S.A. obviously holds enormous weight, because everyone knows what's coming up, everyone knows there's an Olympic qualifier -- it's us versus them," Middleton said. "But I come away from that game thinking again those are things that we can improve on. We've got a squad that's still coming together in terms of the synergies as a group."

Middleton's assessment of Las Vegas? "Up and down, but on the whole we're heading in the right direction."

Some had dreamed of an easier route to Rio, given the top four teams on the world circuit gain Olympic qualification automatically. Canada finished a surprising sixth on the circuit in 2013-14.

But injuries, a delay in replacing coach Geraint John and perhaps some flaws beneath the surface have left Canada in 13th place after five of nine events. The Americans, 13th last season, stand seventh.

The straight-shooting Middleton, who arrived in Canada in November, says the impressive results at the end of last season were misleading.

"The best way for me to describe it is it probably sugercoated things a little bit, that there was this thin layer of gold but underneath it there wasn't the structure ... I think there was very much a polished thin layer but the processes underneath were not in place. And that surprised me a little bit."

The U.S. took a different approach.

"While we were celebrating some good tournaments at the tail end of last year, with our 12, 14 players, the U.S.A. were doing pretty badly," Middleton said. …

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