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Berna, Thiel return but others missing as Canada men gear up for HSBC Spain Sevens

Captain Phil Berna and vice-captain Jake Thiel return from injury to bolster Canada's squad for the HSBC Spain Sevens in Malaga, but coach Henry Paul still has a lengthy list of absent players.

Captain Phil Berna and vice-captain Jake Thiel return from injury to bolster Canada's squad for the HSBC Spain Sevens in Malaga, but coach Henry Paul still has a lengthy list of absent players.

Rugby Canada says Brennig Prevost, Brock Webster, Giovani Douyon, Jarvis Dashkewytch, Lachlan Kratz, Pat Kay, David Richard, Isaac Olson and Lucas Scheck are unavailable through injury or illness.

Andrew Coe is with his MLR team, Rugby United New York, while Cody Nhanala and D’Shawn Bowen are with the Pacific Pride developmental squad.

The Canadian men open play Friday in a group with France, Kenya and Wales.

“Our entire team is fortunate and thankful to be able to continue to compete on the Sevens circuit given the current circumstances that everyone is facing at the moment,” Paul said in a statement. “We are excited to return to action with some new and familiar faces as we continue to develop young talent and welcome back a couple of players returning from injury. Every player is relishing the opportunity to showcase their skills on the international stage.”

Berna missed the opening two events of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai in late November and early December through injury. Thiel was injured in Dubai, where the Canadian men finished 11th and 12th.

Sion Griffiths and Noah Bain could make their World Series debut for Canada in Spain. Anton Ngongo, Matt Oworu and Alex Russell took part in at last year's HSBC Canada Sevens but have yet to play internationally.

The Malaga event which runs through Sunday, is the first of two in Spain, with teams shifting to Seville next to play Jan. 28-30. 

Due to the pandemic, several teams are missing,

The New Zealand men and women are unable to travel to Spain and will be replaced by Germany and Belgium, respectively. The Samoa men are also missing and have been replaced by Jamaica in Pool C.

World Rugby says the Fiji women will also miss out on Malaga while the Fiji men's team may be able to play later in the competition. Opponents in their respective group matches will receive three match points for a “bye” match and a score of 0-0 will be recorded for those games.

The Fiji women were supposed to be Pool B alongside Canada, Poland and the U.S. 

Veteran Karen Paquin returns to the sevens squad after time with the 15s team and being named to the Barbarians Women's invitational all-star squad in November. Breanne Nicholas captains a Canadian side that features 18-year-old Chloe Daniels and 19-year-old Florence Symonds.

The Canadian women finished eighth in both Dubai events,

 “We had a weeklong preparation camp in Spain which was a great way to prepare for the tournament and get some much needed training together," interim head coach Jack Hanratty said in a statement. "We were able to see new combinations in Dubai and we are excited to see some of those combinations continue to grow, while also growing our depth chart as the program heads towards a busy and exciting summer.”

Rugby Canada says Keyara Wardley, Julia Greenshields and Charity Williams are unavailable due to injury.


Canada Rosters


Theo Sauder, Vancouver, Vancouver Rowing Club; Jake Thiel, Abbotsford, B.C., Abbotsford RFC; Nick Allen, North Vancouver, Capilano RFC; Phil Berna, Vancouver, UBC Thunderbirds; Alex Russell, Chinchester, England, McGill University; Josiah Morra, Toronto, Toronto Saracens; Anton Ngongo, Victoria, Okanagan RFC; Cooper Coats, Halifax, Halifax Tars RFC; Sion Griffiths, Mill Bay, B.C., Cowichan RFC; Noah Bain, Abbotsford, B.C., UVic Vikes; Elias Ergas, Vancouver, UBC Thunderbirds; Thomas Isherwood, Okotoks, Alta., Foothills Lions RFC; Matthew Oworu, Calgary, Rugby Canada Development Academy Pacific Pride.


Olivia De Couvreur, Ottawa, Ottawa Irish; Alysha Corrigan, Charlettetown, CRFC; Pamphinette Buisa, Gatineau, Que., Ottawa Irish/University of Victoria; Breanne Nicholas, Blenheim, Ont., London St. Georges; Olivia Apps, Lindsay, Ont., Lindsay RFC; Emma Chown, Barrie, Ont., Aurora Barbarians; Sabrina Poulin, St. Georges de Beauce, Que., Town of Mount Royal Rugby; Nakisa Levale, Abbotsford, B.C., Abbotsford RFC; Paige Farries, Red Deer, Alta., Worcester Warriors/Westshore RFC; Karen Paquin, La Ville de Quebec, Que., Club de Rugby de Quebec/Stade Bordelais; Elissa Alarie, Trois-Rivieres, Que., Westshore RFC/Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC/Braves de Trois-Rivieres; Chloe Daniels, Sutton, Ont., RC Maple Leafs Academy/Queen's University; Florence Symonds, Vancouver, University of British Columbia.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press