Auger-Aliassime bumps slump to beat qualifier at Barcelona Open
Facing a fight to avoid relegation, the Canadian men need to deliver on the pitch in the next three events on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, opening next week in Hong Kong.
The Canadians are 14th in the standings after seven events on the 11-stop circuit. They find themselves in a dangerous neighbourhood given the World Series is dropping from 16 teams to 12 next season to equal the number of women’s sides and align with the Olympic competition structure.
After events in Hong Kong, Singapore and Toulouse, the 15th-ranked men’s core crew will be relegated. The teams ranked 12th, 13th and 14th at the end of Toulouse will enter a four-team relegation playoff together with the Challenger Series 2023 winner at the 11th and final round of the Series in London.
The relegation playoff will be a round-robin format with the top two teams meeting in the final and the winner becoming the 12th core team on the 2024 Series. The other three teams will enter their respective regional championships to qualify for the 2024 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.
Fate has not been kind to the Canadian men of late.
They just missed out on making the Cup quarterfinals at the Canada Sevens earlier this month in Vancouver, finishing tied with Ireland and Australia at 2-0-1 in Pool D but missing out on point differential.
Australia went on to finish third in the tournament, defeating 20-15 Ireland in the bronze-medal match. That earned the Australians 17 points in the standings while Ireland collected 15.
The Canadians who had defeated Australia 29-12, Chile 35-7 and lost 35-5 to Ireland in pool play, fell to Spain (19-14) and South Africa (31-14) to finish tied for 15th with just one point.
“At Canada Sevens our aim was to build from our performances in L.A. (where Canada finished tied for 11th). At moments we accomplished this, and other times our execution let us down,” Canada interim coach Sean White said in a statement.
“We’ve had a very productive training block over the last few weeks that continued our focus on our skill execution under pressure as well as continuing to build the aggression in our defence. The players know the challenges ahead and as a group our sights are set only as far as the next game in front of us.”
The poor finish in Vancouver has produced a tough draw in Hong Kong, which runs March 31 through April 2 at Hong Kong Stadium, with the Canadian men playing in Pool A with No. 2 Argentina, No. 4 Fiji and No. 6 Samoa.
Argentina lifted the Cup in Vancouver, knocking off Fiji in the quarterfinals. Samoa placed ninth.
It’s the second stop in Hong Kong for the men this season with the World Series kicking off there in November. The Canadians concluded 10th then, losing 33-5 to New Zealand, which went on to record podium finishes in five of the next six events.