It's déjà vu all over again for Canadian women's team at Sydney 7s

CBC

What did you expect on Groundhog Day?

Exactly. Other than the venue, nothing changed. For the second week running, the Canadian women's rugby sevens team was second best to New Zealand in the final of the Sydney Sevens.

There is, however, a silver lining – literally and metaphorically. Canada earned another silver medal – its third of the season, and hopped onto the podium for the fourth straight tournament – surely the mark of a team demonstrating consistency. 

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In an Olympic year, few elements are more important. All the heavy hitters, Canada included, have a structure in place for 2020. The general idea is to medal regularly throughout the expanded HSBC World Series and then peak for the Olympics.

It is easier said than done. While New Zealand's Black Ferns are in a class of their own and without question the Olympic favourites, the next question becomes who is the best of the rest? Currently, the Canadians can lay claim to that dubious distinction.

A pattern is emerging. In the three gold medal games contested between Canada and New Zealand this season, the Canadians have repeatedly held their own in the first half only for the Black Ferns to pull away after the interval.

No substitute for hard work

Hence, Groundhog Day in Sydney. The reasons may be many and varied. Are the Canadians a step behind in fitness and stamina or is it more a mental challenge to believe they can actually topple New Zealand? It is likely a combination of both.

It is Canada's task to try and close the gap. Head coach John Tait and his players will regroup in Langford, B.C., where there is a two month window before the first-ever Hong Kong Women's Sevens. They will know there is no substitute for hard work.

It is important Team Canada draws positives from Sydney. Another final, another medal and another strong performance all builds confidence within the camp with three events remaining, including the home leg in early May.

In addition, credibility is a crucial factor. No team reaches three finals in four stops by accident. Canada's chief rivals – Australia, the U.S. and France will all have taken note of how this team has raised its game. Now they must find a way to keep pace.

Youngster shines in Sydney

Canada cannot afford to stand still. It must keep evolving and improving. To that end, a word of praise for youngster Keyara Wardley, from Vulcan, Alta., who left her mark in Sydney with three tries, including the final try in a tight game against Fiji.

Wardley has only just turned 20, and Sevens Rugby at the elite level is a steep learning curve. It is incumbent upon her and others to develop quickly and put pressure on the established stars. There are only 12 seats on the plane to Tokyo.

In the men's competition, it is back to the drawing board for the Canadians. After an impressive fifth-place finish in New Zealand, they failed to build on that momentum, stumbling to the minor placings in Sydney, winning only their opening pool game. 

At least a couple of young Canadians stepped up. Andrew Coe managed three tries while teenager David Richard bagged a pair over the weekend, but collectively Canada has plenty of room for improvement ahead of the USA Sevens in a month's time.

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