Canadian coach Francois Ratier has chosen a veteran squad for next week’s two-match women’s rugby Can-Am Series against the U.S.
Canada, currently ranked third in the world, plays the seventh-ranked Americans on Tuesday and Saturday at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Centre in suburban San Diego.
It’s part of Canada’s buildup for the Rugby World Cup in August in Ireland, where the Canadian women have been drawn in a group with No. 1 New Zealand, No. 9 Wales and No. 23 Hong Kong.
Ratier’s 26-woman squad includes 14 of the players who saw action in the 21-9 loss to England in the final of the 2014 Rugby World Cup.
Returning starters from the World Cup final include captain Kelly Russell, Elissa Alarie, Latoya Blackwood, Emily Belchos, Andrea Burk, Jacey Grusnick, Magali Harvey, Karen Paquin and Julianne Zussman. Five others in the current squad came in off the bench that day.
“It’s not the time now to try new players … it’s about fine-tuning, but also try our systems and see what works, what doesn’t,” Ratier said. “But at the same time these are international games and it’s really important for me that the mentality is if it’s an international game, we need to win it and perform.
“The World Cup is the main goal obviously but every game is important.”
The Canadians will travel to New Zealand in early June to face No. 2 England, No. 6 Australia and the host Black Ferns.
Canada defeated the U.S. 33-5 the last time they met, at the 2016 Women’s Rugby Super Series in Salt Lake City. Canada is 16-18-0 all-time against the Americans.
Ratier’s team left Saturday for San Diego after a five-day Vancouver Island camp featuring some 40 athletes.
Brittany Kassil is the only uncapped Canadian player in Ratier’s squad. Julia Goss, Demi Stamatakis and Alex Tessier were unavailable due to injury.
Elissa Alarie, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC, Trois Rivieres, Que.; Emily Belchos, Westshore RFC, Innisfil, Ont.; Tyson Beukeboom, Aurora Barbarians, Uxbridge, Ont.; Latoya Blackwood, Westshore RFC, Montreal; Andrea Burk, Capilano RFC, North Vancouver; Olivia DeMerchant, Woodstock Wildmen, Mapledale, N.B.; Jacey Grusnick, Aurora Barbarians, Alliston, Ont.; Chelsea Guthrie, Stratchona Druids, Edmonton; Magali Harvey, Club de Rugby de Quebec, Quebec City; Anais Holly, TMRRFC, Montreal; Lori Josephson, Aurora Barbarians, Beaverton, Ont.; Brittany Kassil, Guelph Redcoats, Guelph, Ont.; Jane Kirby, Highland Fergus Rugby Club, Brampton, Ont.; Kayla Mack, Saskatoon Wild Oats, Saskatoon; Carolyn McEwen, Burnaby, Vancouver; DaLeaka Menin, Calgary Hornets, Vulcan, Alta.; Barbara Mervin, Westshore RFC, Peterborough, Ont.; Brianna Miller, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC, Pointe-Claire, Que.; Cindy Nelles, Belleville Bulldogs, Belleville, Ont.; Karen Paquin, Club de Rugby de Quebec, Quebec City; Frederique Rajotte, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC, Montreal; Laura Russell, Toronto Nomads, Bolton, Ont.; Kelly Russell, Toronto Nomads, Bolton, Ont.; Amanda Thornborough, Westshore RFC, Brandon, Man.; Brittany Waters, Meraloma Athletic Club, Vancouver; Julianne Zussman, Castaway Wanderers, Montreal.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press