Phil Berna and Luke McCloskey are due to make their HSBC Sevens Series debuts for Canada next weekend at the Wellington Sevens after head coach Liam Middleton announced his 13-man squad. Berna and McCloskey are products of Canada’s age-grade system having both have risen through the Canadian ranks to make the senior team. McCloskey plays for Victoria club the Castaways.
“This is a great opportunity to expose these two players to the World Series and equally it’s an opportunity for them to show what they are good at,” Middleton said. “Both have been in our training program for the last six months and played in several Maple Leafs tournaments. Luke is immensely fit, with good pace and Phil is an all-round good rugby player who adds a different dimension to our forwards.
“Importantly we are seeing players like Luke and Phil graduating through the Maple Leafs into the senior team which is a sign of our pathway really starting to push players through.”
McCloskey, 23, has been a mainstay on the Maple Leafs the past year. He played on two stops of the South Americas Sevens Circuit earlier this month while also playing in Dubai and Australia.
Berna, 19, also played for the Maple Leafs in Australia and Chile as well as in Limerick last year. He also helped Canada advance to the World Rugby Trophy last May in Portugal.
Nine players keep their place from Cape Town as John Moonlight will once again captain a side that also includes returnees Admir Cejvanovic, Sean Duke, Nathan Hirayama, Harry Jones, Pat Kay, Phil Mack, Matt Mullins and Sean White. Lucas Hammond and Adam Zaruba are also included.
“Training has been as good as I can ask of the players and I ask a lot of them in terms of work ethic and attention to detail,” Middleton said.
“A number of contracted players went to South America with the Maple Leafs and got 12 high quality games under their belts. It’s hard not to associate the year 2016 with the Olympic games and our intention is to be the best prepared we can be for the qualifier in June, but right now our only focus is on the Wellington tournament and our first pool game. After that we will look at the next pool game.”
Canada has been drawn into Pool D with Australia, Kenya and Portugal. Canada is 3-36-1 against Australia but holds winning records against Kenya (20-10-1) and Portugal (16-11). Canada has yet to face Australia and Kenya this season but did beat Portugal 31-14 in Dubai.
“We play Kenya a lot and they had a good run out in Cape Town,” Middleton said. “Australia are a consistently quality side and Portugal are a gritty team that are hard to get on top of. Every game will be as good a test as we would expect from any pool game and we prepare to play those games with one outcome in mind.”
After two rounds, Canada currently sits 13th in the series standings. They claimed the Shield trophy in Dubai with a 19-17 win over Japan and then secured an 11th place finish in Cape Town that included some extremely positive results including a second ever victory over New Zealand and an exciting 26-26 tie with France.
After the Wellington Sevens, Canada will head to Australia for the Sydney Sevens the following week. With a number of players unavailable for Wellington, including Nanyak Dala, Justin Douglas, Conor Trainor, Mike Fuailefau, Mitch Santilli and Liam Underwood, Middleton could potentially have a bigger pool of players to choose from for the fourth tournaments of the series.
Hammond will make his 20th sevens series appearance in Wellington while White will earn his 25th cap. Mack remains 54 points shy of 1,000 for his career.
Due to the time difference, the Wellington Sevens takes place Jan. 29-30 in Canada. All matches from the tournament can be watched at www.worldrugby.org!
Canada’s Roster for the Wellington Sevens (Club), Hometown, Province:
Phil Berna – (UBC Thunderbirds) Vancouver, BC
Admir Cejvanovic – (Burnaby Lake RFC/BC Bears) Burnaby, BC
Sean Duke – (Unattached) Vancouver, BC
Lucas Hammond – (Toronto Nomads/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Nathan Hirayama – (UVIC Vikes/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Harry Jones – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) West Vancouver, BC
Pat Kay – (Unattached) Duncan, BC
Phil Mack – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Luke McCloskey – (Castaway Wanderers) Victoria, BC
John Moonlight – Captain (James Bay AA/Ontario Blues) Pickering, ON
Matt Mullins – (Queens University/Ontario Blues) Belleville, ON
Sean White – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Adam Zaruba – (Capilano RFC/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Unavailable due to injury:
Nanyak Dala – (Castaway Wanderers/Prairie Wolf Pack) Saskatoon, SK
Justin Douglas – (Abbotsford RFC/BC Bears) Abbotsford, BC
Mike Fuailefau – (Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
Mitch Santilli – (Brantford Harlequins) Brantford, ON
Conor Trainor – (UBCOB Ravens/BC Bears) Vancouver, BC
Liam Underwood – (Balmy Beach RFC/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Senior Men’s Team Staff:
Liam Middleton – Head Coach
Lee Douglas – Assistant Coach
Brian Hunter – Manager
Danielle Mah – Physiotherapist
Calum Ramsay – Performance Analyst
Wellington Sevens Day 1 Schedule:
Canada vs. Kenya – 6:58pm ET / 3:58pm PT
Canada vs. Australia – 10:22pm ET / 7:22pm PT
Canada vs. Portugal – 1:12am ET / 10:12pm PT