Canada opened their 2014/15 season with four straight losses at the Gold Coast 7s. It wasn’t disaster but they looked a step behind throughout the weekend. Three of those defeats were by only 2 points. It’s not as simple as saying they were unlucky – the margins are notoriously slim in the shortened game. Absent chief playmakers Phil Mack and Nathan Hirayama, the team had mixed results with ball in hand, but it was poor defense that really let them down.
Lucas Hammond was the man handed the unenviable responsibility of filling in for Mack, and it’s fair to say the lad has some work ahead of him. His decision making will come, but his commitment in defense left a lot to be desired. He wasn’t the only one missing tackles. Conor Trainor, Ciaran Hearn, and the usually unfailing captain John Moonlight were all made to look silly on a few occasions. It’s hard to expect the young guns to buck up when the senior citizens aren’t pulling their own weight.
One positive to take away will be the increasing confidence of Justin Douglas. He too missed a front-on tackle on England’s John Brake that led directly to a try, but he was far and away the most potent weapon on offense. He’s probably a step short of top class pace but has a surprisingly good step for his height and an effective fend. The backdoor offload that put Harry Jones away against France was a real moment of class.
Debutants Jake Webster and Adam Zaruba weren’t given much time to shine, but when they finally did come off the bench they looked hungry. Zaruba is hard to miss and on the wing he is a runaway locomotive. His height proved very useful on the restarts as well. Hopefully he’ll get more time going forward. It’s been a long time since Canada had such an imposing figure on the 7s paddock.
Webster is a completely different animal, roughly half the size but tigerish in his ability to stay on his feet. His passing skills need to be sharpened – his footwork is good to go. Beating two French defenders with a left foot step and sheer determination was a delight to watch.
The reports are that Mack should be fit and firing soon after recovering from a knee injury. Sadly Hirayama appears to be lost for several months having just had shoulder surgery a week ago. Many of these players will be required for the European tour in November, and then it will be right back to the grindstone to prepare for Dubai in the first week of December. It’s not ideal but that’s the life of a modern Canadian traveling rugger.