Rugby Canada 7s to re-evaluate after failing to qualify for Rio
Head coach, general manager plan thorough review of program after loss
Canada's rugby sevens team was a conversion kick away from keeping its Olympic chances alive.
Instead, Sunday's devastating 14-12 loss to Russia in the quarter-finals of the final qualifying tournament in Monaco dashed Canada's hopes for Rio.
Jim Dixon, general manager of rugby operations and performance for Rugby Canada, released a statement on Monday calling for a thorough review of the program.
"Everyone is obviously very disappointed and we are giving [the players] some time to digest that," Dixon told CBC Sports. "They are people. They are human beings. They all have feelings. They are obviously all very disappointed and sad not to be carrying on to Rio. We are giving them a little bit of space to digest that.
"Obviously, [we can't] rush to any conclusions before we discuss everything with the staff and members of the program," Dixon said.
'We wanted to go to Rio'
Canada's rugby sevens team earned its second consecutive Pan Am gold in Toronto in 2015. However, they followed that result with inconsistent performances on the HSBC Sevens World Series. The team finished 13th overall and failed to reach the knockout stage at any event on the circuit.
"Sport can be a cruel thing," head coach Liam Middleton told CBC Sports. "There are lots of choices [players] make to chase this one dream which is not easily attainable. But when the opportunity is no longer there ... there is a fair bit of emotion around that. The dream [of qualifying for Rio] is now extinguisted."
FT: Heartbreak for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Canada?src=hash">#Canada</a> who fall 14-12 to <a href="https://twitter.com/RugbyRussia">@RugbyRussia</a> in their <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Monaco7s?src=hash">#Monaco7s</a> cup QF <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RISEAsOne?src=hash">#RISEAsOne</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/SLGI_Canada">@SLGI_Canada</a> <a href="https://t.co/dzVE0ToLSn">pic.twitter.com/dzVE0ToLSn</a>—@RugbyCanada
Despite the disappointment, Dixon is focused on improving the program.
"We wanted to go to Rio," Dixon said. "The players and staff were desperate and they put a lot of work in to achieve that goal. Now, it's about assessing why we didn't and putting the steps in place to put us in a strong position as we move forward."
Canada had several chances to qualify for rugby's re-introduction to the Olympics. The top four teams from the 2014-15 Sevens Series earned an automatic berth at the Games; Canada finished ninth and later lost to the United States at the continental qualifiers.
As a result, Canada joined 15 other countries at a last-chance repechage tournament in Monaco. The team got off to a 2-0 start in pool play, but fell to upstart Germany to set up the match against Russia. Russia has now beaten Canada three straight times.
"It's about performing on demand at critical times and we've got to look at why we didn't," Dixon said.
None of Canada's rugby sevens players were made available for comment.
"I feel for John Moonlight," Middleton said, referring to the men's captain. "He can walk away from that [Monaco] tournament without a single regret. Certainly, [he] is disappointed. I don't think he could have done much more to prepare himself. He played fantastically well."
No guarantees for Tokyo 2020
Middleton made no promises for the roster of his team going forward, while Dixon said the failure to qualify for Rio will not be taken lightly.
"We've got to sit down and assess our performance. I can assure you that the program was given the support they needed and we will continue to do that. Be it good times or bad, you've got to work through the progress together — get the best for the team and the players. We'll just keep focusing on that."