By Ethan Diamandas
Team Canada rugby has been very active over the last few months and several athletes from the nation’s capital have played important roles in recent competitions.
Gatineau, Que.’s Pamphinette Buisa competed with Canada’s women’s rugby sevens and 15s teams, which gave her quite the travel schedule.
“I was gone for basically a month-and-a-half filled with rugby,” she laughed. “It was a jam-packed time.”
Buisa started with the 15s squad, which won two games against Team U.S.A. at the start of November in Glendale, Colorado. After that, the 15s team flew to the U.K., where Canada lost to England’s team on Nov. 14 and defeated Wales a week later.
“I hadn’t played 15s in like three years since that tournament,” Buisa said. “So, it was a lot of learning, a lot of game review, kind of knowing my role, knowing the different positions I play … it was definitely an adjustment going into the 15s.”
From there, she returned to her usual spot on Canada’s sevens team for a tournament in Dubai, which ran from Nov. 26 to Dec. 4. Buisa scored twice and Ottawa’s Olivia De Couvreur added three tries of her own during the tournament, but Canada won only one of its 10 matches.
Despite the result, Buisa, 24, said she’s not discouraged — especially since Canada has one of the youngest national team rosters and is at the start of a program overhaul.
“It’s definitely a build year … I think (the tournament) was more so (about) getting that opportunity to restart,” Buisa said. “We hadn’t really done that.
“We also had a new head coach, a new assistant coach — everything was very new — so it was good that we were able to kind of start fresh and also know where to go from there to move up the rankings.”
The previous head coach of the women’s sevens team, John Tait, resigned on April 26 amidst an internal investigation launched due to player complaints against him. Since then, interim coach Jack Hanratty has taken over and will remain in his position until at least Feb. 1, Buisa said.
The Canadian men’s rugby squads were also on the pitch recently. The men’s sevens team travelled to Dubai and, like the women’s team, won just one of 10 matches.
After failing to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Canada’s 15s team split two overseas exhibition games — dropping a close contest to Portugal 20-17, then knocking off Belgium 24-0.
“The loss to Portugal was a tight one, and it hurt to come down to the end of the game,” union hooker Eric Howard said. “They have gotten better in recent years, and they definitely showed that, but I think we’re making steps in the right direction, especially with such a young team.”
The end result wasn’t what Canada hoped for, but Howard, who grew up in Ottawa and currently lives in Edmonton, said the energy he felt when he reunited and trained with his teammates this summer after more than a year apart made the experience extra enjoyable.
“I love being around the boys,” the 28-year-old said. “It’s always so good to be around them, train with them, just hang out with them, play cards. Just that environment, it’s like addicting to be around because they’re just so much fun.”
Both Canada’s men’s and women’s 15s teams now have a break from competition, while the sevens units compete in the next leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series beginning Jan. 21 in Spain.
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