Seven things to know about the 2021 Canada Sevens

The sixth edition of the extremely popular, fan-friendly Canada Sevens rugby tournament goes Saturday and Sunday at B.C. Place Stadium.

© Provided by The Province U.S. men’s rugby head coach Mike Friday talks with the team during training at the Olympic Training Center on July 14, 2016, in Chula Vista, Calif.

Here are seven things to know about the tournament:

12

In normal years, a World Rugby Sevens Series tournament has 16 teams.

But because of COVID-19, this year’s Canada Sevens features just 12 teams. Not present are powerhouse clubs like New Zealand and Fiji (plus strong contenders in Australia, Argentina and Samoa), replaced by much lesser lights in Germany, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Chile and Mexico.

Just seven of the dozen teams in the tourney are “core” members of the regular series, a roster that was further diminished by the late withdrawal of France.

“I think it’s great to get things up-and-running, but it’s going to be a big asterisk to whoever wins this series,” U.S. coach Mike Friday told Postmedia News this week.

Friday’s Americans, along with South Africa and Britain, are the favourites to win this weekend.

Nine

Just about every team in the tournament is bringing a pile of fresh faces, be they a top team like the U.S., South Africa or Canada, or one of the minnows.

Canada has nine raw rookies in their squad this weekend. Only Jake Thiel, Andrew Coe, captain Phil Berna — who all played at the Olympics this summer — and Josiah Morra have previous sevens series experience.

“A lot of the teams are blooding new players. It’s going to be an interesting tournament,” Friday pointed out. There will be mistakes. But there will surely also be some wild-and-crazy moments.

Two

This weekend’s tournament is one of two editions of the Canada Sevens this year, as the carnival will move on to Edmonton for a second round of sevens on Sept. 25-26.

And these two events are the totality of the 2021 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, after previously scheduled events for September, October and November in Hong Kong, Paris, London, England, Cape Town and Singapore were called off.

The 2021-22 season will kick off in late November in Dubai, followed a week later by a second event in Dubai. The first tournament in the desert will be held without fans, but the second will have fans in the stands.

The new season was meant to continue in January with traditional stops in New Zealand and Australia, but both those events have already been called off and World Rugby says they’re looking at alternative venues.

The full schedule for next season is yet to be announced, but expect a return to Vancouver in March, as well as renewals of stops in Los Angeles, Singapore, Hong Kong, London and Paris.

There’s also the Commonwealth Games next summer and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in South Africa next September.

As such, the young squad this month for Canada is just the first step in building the next team that will hope to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Four

There is also a “Fast Four” women’s tournament running this weekend as well, with Canada, the U.S., Britain and Mexico taking part.

The Canadian women’s team is coached by Kelly Russell, a former player, and, like the men’s squad, her lineup features a slew of young players, looking to make their mark.

The women’s series is expected to make a full return next year as well.

13,500

Canada Sevens organizers expect when games kick off Saturday morning they’ll have sold about 13,500 tickets, between those seated in the lower bowl of B.C. Place and those in the suites above. That’s about 50 per cent capacity of that portion of the stadium, which is the maximum currently allowed by provincial public health authorities.

19

Under the province’s new proof-of-COVID-19 vaccination policies, fans arriving at B.C. Place will have to show their B.C. vaccine card — or proof of vaccination if they’re from out-of-province — to gain entry into the stadium.

Players, most of whom have arrived from abroad, all had to show proof of full vaccination dating from at least two weeks before their entry into Canada.

Fans are also required to wear a mask while in the building, unless they’re eating or drinking, which is only permitted in one’s seat. Loitering on the concourses isn’t permitted.

Seven

Each team has seven players on the field, and each game is made up of two seven-minute halves. Teams are allowed to make five substitutions during each game.

It’s five points for a try, which is scored by touching the ball down in the end zone. A conversion kick, taken anywhere along a line extending down the field from where the try was scored, is worth two points if the kicker manages to drop-kick the ball through the posts.

Passes can be lateral or backwards, otherwise it’s a scrum, with the opponents getting possession of the ball. Dropping the ball forward is called a knock-on and can result in a scrum for the other team as well, though in both cases if the opposing team recovers the ball, they can keep playing unless the referee has blown their whistle immediately.

Only the ball carrier can be tackled to the ground.

Kicking the ball over the sidelines leads to a lineout, where one player throws the ball in and players on the field jump to win possession.

If a player is guilty of foul play, like hitting a player in the air or dropping an opponent on his head, the referee can show them a yellow card, which means two minutes in the “sin bin.” The player’s team plays all two minutes with only six players.

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