Canada's men will play Zimbabwe while the Canadian women face China in their opening matches at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in South Africa.
The schedule was released Thursday, marking the 50-day lead-up to the Sept. 9-11 tournament in Cape Town.
Host South Africa is the top seed in the 24-team men’s competition, with Australia second and Olympic champion Fiji third. South Africa, which leads the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with one event remaining, won the first four stops this season while extending a 36-match winning streak that saw the BlitzBoks win six straight events across 2021-2022.
Tenth-seeded Canada opens play against No. 23 Zimbabwe in the qualification round involving teams seeded from nine to 24. The winners of the qualification round progress to the round of 16 where they will take on the top eight seeds, while the losers drop down into the consolation Bowl competition that will decide positions 17 to 24.
A win over Zimbabwe and the Canadian men advance to face No. 7 France. The winner of that match could see Australia in the quarterfinals.
The Canadian men finished 12th at the last Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018 in San Francisco. Their best result was a fifth in 2001.
The women's competition kicks off with round-of-16 knockout matches. The fifth-seeded Canadians open against No. 12 China with the winner moving on to face either the fourth-ranked U.S. or No. 13 Poland.
Canada, runner-up to New Zealand at the 2013 event in Moscow, finished seventh four years ago.
Top-seeded Australia takes on debutant Madagascar, Olympic champion New Zealand faces Colombia, and host South Africa meets Olympic silver medallist France.
South Africa marks the eighth edition of the men's World Cup Sevens and the fourth for the women.
The New Zealand men have won the title three times and are the two-time defending champion. Fiji has won twice with England and Wales hoisting the trophy once apiece.
Australia won the inaugural women's title in 2009 with New Zealand taking the last two tournaments.
The Canadian men currently sit 14th on the nine-stop World Series. The Canadian women finished seventh in their six-event season.
Both sides have gone through a lot of turnover since the Tokyo Olympics where the Canadian men finished eighth and the women, who won bronze in Rio in 2016, were ninth.
The seedings for both men’s and women’s competitions were based on points accrued during the World Series in 2020 and 2022. Teams that do not participate in the Series were seeded using their rankings gained at the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2020 in conjunction with regional ranking positions ending in July 2022.
Women’s teams qualified either via finishing in the top four at the last Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018, and through regional qualification tournaments. Men’s teams qualified by finishing in the top eight at the last RWC Sevens and via regional qualification tournaments.
The Canadian men and women both went the regional qualification route.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2022
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press