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Team Canada faces huge trial at wheelchair rugby test event

Team Canada's wheelchair rugby team has a better idea of what it will take to win gold at the Paralympics having played a test event in Rio de Janeiro this past weekend.

Canada's co-captain says team has 'a little chip on our shoulder now that we're No. 1'

Micheal Whitehead of Canada (left) goes on offence against Brazil's Julio Cesar Braz during the International Wheelchair Rugby Championship - Aquece Rio Test Event for the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Canada beat Brazil 61 - 42, 53 - 40 in the teams' two match-ups. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Canada's wheelchair rugby team has a better idea of how to compete in the Paralympics with the pressure of being number one. 

The team just wrapped up a test event at the Paralympic competition venue in Rio de Janeiro. They faced Australia, Great Britain and Brazil in a competition that will look and feel a lot like Rio 2016.

"We have a little chip on our shoulder now that we're number one in the world," team co-captain Patrice Simard told CBC Sports in a phone call from Brazil. "Usually we don't have that pressure on us, but now we have it.

"But we're confident we're going to deliver."

Tough competition

Team Canada went into the tournament minus one of their best goal-scorers in Zak Madell, who led the team to gold at the Toronto Parapan Am Games.

Canada won both match-ups with Brazil but were challenged by Australia and Great Britain, losing the two games they played against each team respectively. The Brits went on to win the event.

The tournament doesn't impact seeding, so the losses do not effect Canada's first place world ranking.

"They're tough teams to beat," Simard said of Australia and Great Britain. "We saw this week we're going to have to be on our 'A-game' to beat these guys."

Despite not coming out of the tournament on the winning end, Simard is pleased with Canada's play, as well as what they learned.

"One of our best guys being away gives us a chance to play different lines," he said. "We know what lines work with Zak, so [playing without him] gives us a sense of different things. 

"So now we'll know that in September."

Looking towards the Games

Simard says the team already had an idea of what they needed to do to reach the podium at the Summer Games, but it was confirmed this weekend. 

"We'll have to get out on the floor ready to go hard for four quarters, try not to make mistakes and use our bench," he said. "We have a lot of depth."

Team Canada will reconvene in Vancouver for a selection camp from March 6 to 10, where they'll get another chance to face international competition in a friendly match versus Japan.


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