The Victoria suburb of Langford will be hosting the rugby sevens Olympic qualifier in August after Rugby Canada succeeded in its bid.
Several cities had been vying to host the event. Having the qualifiers played in front of a home crowd should give the teams a boost, according to Gareth Rees, commercial and program relations for Rugby Canada.
“I think that’s one of the reasons we’re here in Langford, we’ll have the best chance to win, no question about that,” Rees said. “Both our teams have raised their games whenever they’ve come back to the Canadian stop of the World Series.”
The qualifiers will feature North American sides vying for a spot in the Paris 2024 Olympics, with both women’s and men’s teams taking to the field.
Rees said the U.S. will have the strongest team at the event, but was hopeful the crowd could encourage the men’s team to an upset victory and said the women’s team would be strong challengers to qualify for the Olympics.
Men’s team member Brock Webster says the qualifiers would “potentially be one of the biggest games of our lives,” adding he was excited at the prospect of playing in Langford.
“I haven’t played many places where seven metres off the side of the pitch your parents can be there – you can look over during the game and have get assurance,” Webster said. “It takes you back to when you’re younger and you start playing the game when you’re 10 to 11 years old.”
The last time sevens rugby was at Starlight Stadium, the women’s team won in the fifth-place final against the U.S. in front of a jubilant crowd in May 2022.
More recently, the women’s team finished sixth in the Vancouver sevens – held for the first time at B.C. Place in Vancouver earlier this month – while the men’s team finished 15th. The men came into the tournament sitting 14th in the World Rugby Sevens Series standings and are fighting to avoid relegation, with the number of men’s core teams for the 2024 season set to be cut from 16 to 12, to match the women’s side and the Olympic competition structure.
Both teams competed at the Tokyo Olympics with the men’s team finishing eighth and the women coming ninth.