Three years out from Rugby Sevens' Olympic debut in Rio, eight nations - Argentina, Canada, France, South Africa, Hong Kong, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay - are set to compete at the World Games in Cali, Colombia on 1-2 August. Here Canada's Sevens head coach Geraint John looks ahead to the tournament at the Pascual Guerrero Stadium and also contemplates the challenge of taking Canada to the next level on the World Series.
My players and coaching staff are extremely proud to be in Cali as part of Team Canada's campaign at these World Games.
Our aim here in terms of Rugby Sevens is to give more players more opportunity. The players we have sent to Cali are a combination of those who have not started many games on the HSBC Sevens World Series and some new players.
It is vital that these players get more experience, and that we grow our player depth.
Over the last few seasons there have been far too many occasions when Canadian players have gained their first experience of Sevens on the World Series, but that is set to change. We have the World Games, we have our own Victoria Sevens in September and then we will attend the NACRA Sevens and the Vegas Sevens, where we will send development teams.
The key thing for Canada is to hit our 'key performance indicators'. Too often we look at results and where we want to be or where we should finish. Next season I am going to change that slightly and look at key KPI's for every game. If we hit them then I believe we will win more games than we lose and that is key. By doing that I am confident that Canada will be in new territory.
Positive 2012/13 season
When we look back we have to be pleased with the season we've just played, yet we need to also look at where we want to go and what we need to do to improve. Our aim was not to have to re-qualify and we achieved that, which was pleasing. Also we had some very good results against the top teams but we need to be more consistent.
The World Cup was a strange tournament and it is hard to explain to people that we only lost once - to the eventual champions - but finished ninth! Maybe there's a flaw in the format of the tournament that I'm sure will be looked at between now and 2018.
I think that tournament did show that we are turning a corner. We now have some experience but also the majority of our players train daily at our new centre in Langford in British Columbia. We have support there for players and this will increase next year. Our aim is to have around 24 players training every day and we must do this if we are to be competitive and get to the next level.
Fortunately we have gained some financial support from Canada's "Own the Podium" programme and this will help our athletes. Next year we will have a full-time medic supporting our team in training, a nutritionist, more strength and conditioning support plus a full-time analyst and sport psychology help. This is something that most of the other top teams have for their players but this has not been the case for us up until now.
Fighting battles on two fronts
Canada's challenge is, and may always will be, player numbers and workload but we have to manage that as best we can. Many players were involved in the June 15-a-side Test series and are now getting ready for the massive Rugby World Cup qualifier double-header against the USA on August 17 and 24.
We have planned their time and recovery though and given them July on their own, because that is vital if we are to keep these players going. We put a great deal of trust in our players.
In the future we might be in a situation where players play either Sevens or 15s, but at the moment we do not feel that we can do that. Also, one of our strengths is that myself as Sevens head coach and Kieran Crowley (15s head coach) work very closely together and that is a major strength of our programme. Kieran comes with us to most rounds of the Series, which is fantastic and I cannot think of another country that has that close link.
How else can we take Canadian Sevens to the next level? We are looking closely at that and have certain ideas about how to make that next breakthrough. We will be looking closely at what needs to be achieved both on and off the field to get the results and our first planning meeting around that takes place today!
Canada will line up against South Africa, Hong Kong and hosts Colombia in Pool A at the World Games on 1-2 August. Argentina, France, Brazil and Uruguay will start in Pool B.
Player Quotes of Support
“More than anything, Sevens embodies the Olympic ideals of camaraderie, fair play and respect on and off the field of play.” – Shane Williams, Wales
“You play sport at the highest level to challenge yourself to be the best that you can possibly be and to compete with the best from all over the world, and what better stage to do that on than at the Olympics?” – Sue Day, England
“Going to the Commonwealth Games was amazing and to have the chance to go to the Olympics would be right up there with anything you could possibly dream of doing in sport.” – Tamati Ellison, New Zealand
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