Rugby

Canadian men's rugby 7s team fires head coach Damian McGrath

Damian McGrath is out as Canada's men's rugby sevens coach after nearly three seasons in charge that saw the team win its first-ever tournament on the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Team managed only a single top-8 performance in 8 events this season

Damian McGrath, shown in this March 2017 file photo, was fired from his role as head coach of the Canadian men's rugby sevens team. (File/The Canadian Press)

Damian McGrath is out as Canada's men's rugby sevens coach after nearly three seasons in charge that saw the team win its first-ever tournament on the World Rugby Sevens Series.

"Changes in program leadership are always difficult decisions to reach, however this is part of developing and operating a competitive high performance program," Allen Vansen, CEO of Rugby Canada, said in a news release.

"We would like to thank Damian for his time with Rugby Canada and the contributions he made to our 7s development, and wish him well in his future endeavours."

McGrath, who is well-respected in the Canadian rugby community, took over in 2016 following the Canadian men's inability to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics. The 61-year-old, originally from England, helped guide the squad to its first-ever World Series win in Singapore in April 2017.

Canada finished eighth overall that season and ninth in 2017-18, but struggled to find consistency on the pitch this season and currently sit 12th in an Olympic-qualifying year.

The men's team's season got off to an unfavourable start due to a dispute between the players and the national union over a variety of issues. This led to a shortened pre-season, something McGrath refused to blame for the squad's early season form.

Henry Paul, a New Zealand-born former member of England's sevens team, was named interim coach.

Canada has two tournaments remaining on the men's circuit this season — London on May 25-26 and Paris on June 1-2 — but the bigger target remains the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The team will have a shot at making its first-ever Summer Games at a regional qualifying tournament in the Cayman Islands on July 6-7.

Barring that, a last-chance repechage will be held later this year.

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