Women’s rugby team arrives in Brazil after lengthy travel delays

The women’s rugby sevens squad will try to maintain Olympic position, despite a three-day travel headache on their way to Brazil.

The second Sevens Series is scheduled to play on Saturday and Sunday in São Paulo, Brazil.

The team left Victoria early Sunday morning, six days before their first fixture, a Saturday lunch date with Russia. In Vancouver and after clearing U.S. customs to board their Chicago-bound flight, they heard the words every traveller dreads: airport closed. O’Hare had fallen victim a debilitating winter storm.

Doing what all travellers do when grounded, the team sat on the floor in sadness. And then tweeted at Justin Bieber:

Justin didn’t oblige, unfortunately.

Instead of arriving in Brazil on Monday afternoon, a few overnights and diversions through Houston and Miami meant touchdown at their destination on Wednesday night according to Rugby Canada, nearly four full days after first departing Victoria. That’s definitely up there for a horror story, not to mention having to play rugby two days later.

“The journey thus far has been bizarre and very long. When we finally make it to Brazil we will have been travelling for three days more than we anticipated. The most bizarre experience thus far was having to clear Canadian customs without ever leaving Canada.” said captain Jen Kish via e-mail during transit.

Here’s the Rugby Canada break-down of the Canadian roster for Brazil

Kish says the ‘team vibe is good’ for her 12-member squad which will have to rely on preparation and be hopeful for a quick acclimatization, “Most of our time has been spent in transit, however we are well rested and we’ll be relying on our preparations the past couple months leading into this tournament,” wrote Kish.

“We’ve already put in the work ahead of time so a situation like ours wouldn’t derail us as much as some may think.” – Captain Jen Kish

The captain reports when the team finally arrives at their destination:

For this leg the Canadians have three younger faces on the roster. 20-year-old Nadia Popov and 18-year-old Charity Williams move up from junior for their first shot at the senior level. 18-year-old Hannah Darling played on the series last year but is back, bolstered by captaining a silver medal at last summer’s Youth Olympic Games. Williams was also on that team.


Hannah Darling drives the ball with Charity Williams (right) looking on at Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. (August 2014)

Some regulars are out of the line-up for now. Arielle Dubissette-Borrice is recovering from a shoulder injury. Last year’s IRB Women’s Player of the Year Magali Harvey and veteran Elissa Alarie were also left at home.

“We have been consistently trying different players the last two seasons who can push the regulars in this group,” explains head coach John Tait, and on the younger athletes, “Fresh faces always seem to bring new energy into the team. They have been proving themselves consistently in training and scrimmages for the last few months.”

Canada is ranked third with 16 points after one leg. They need to be top-4 at the end of the series to qualify for Rio 2016. They are in Pool C and will play Russia, South Africa and England in that order on Saturday.

Cover: Ghislaine Landry photo by Ian Muir