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Justin Douglas, Conor Trainor return to Canada rugby sevens squad in Los Angeles


Justin Douglas and Conor Trainor return to action for Canada this weekend at the HSBC Los Angeles Sevens.

Douglas has been out of action since last May in London because of a broken fibula while Trainor, who had been playing professionally for a club in France, has stepped back from the 15s game to focus on sevens ahead of this summer's Olympics.

Douglas, a danger man from Abbotsford, B.C., was Canada's all-time leading sevens try-scorer with 136 but has since been passed by co-captain Nate Hirayama (143).

"Hopefully this is the start of Justin getting back to regular rugby," said Canada coach Henry Paul. "But we do have some good depth in our squad now and we're trying to be competitive in all positions and trying to give guys opportunity.

"We really want to push the message that it's performance-based as well."

Trainor, who had played a lot of sevens before going abroad to play pro rugby, returned to the sevens squad before Christmas.

"He's fit right in, like a duck to water ... Now it's up to him to prove he deserves to be part of the (Olympic) team," Paul said. "If he wants a shot he's got this opportunity now." 

Tenth in the overall standings after four stops on the 10-event HISBC World Rugby Sevens Series, Canada is in a pool with No. 2 South Africa, No. 9 Ireland Kenya and No. 1 Kenya.

The Canadian men are 5-27-2 all-time against South Africa, 6-2-0 against Ireland and 24-16-1 against Kenya.

The U.S. stop, which has been returned to Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., after a decade in Las Vegas, is the last stop before the HSBC Canada Sevens in Vancouver on March 7-8.

Douglas and Trainor come in for Andrew Coe and Josiah Morra. Coe is currently serving a four-match suspension for a high tackle in Canada's 7-0 loss to France on Feb 2 in the ninth-place match at the Sydney Sevens, a game played in a driving rainstorm. 

"We had three clear chances we didn't take," Paul said of the loss to France. "Hopefully we can learn from what we call learning moments. We're improving competition by competition, so let's hope we take another step forward this weekend."

The Canadians opened the season with a ninth-place performance in Dubai before finishing 10th in Cape Town and a season-best fifth in Hamilton, New Zealand.

There is a break in the schedule after Vancouver, with April tournaments in Singapore and Hong Kong pushed back to October because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

There are World Series stops in London (May 23-24) and Paris (May 30-31).

The men's Olympic rugby sevens tournament is slated for July 27-29 in Tokyo.

Paul is hoping to organize some games against the U.S. and Argentina in the gap left by the Singapore and Hong Kong postponements. 

"It's not ideal but it's the same for everyone," Paul said of the scheduling.

As for the virus outbreak and the Olympics, Paul says the team will leave it to the experts and focus on getting themselves ready. 

"All our thoughts go out to the families and the people that have been affected by the virus," he said. "Obviously at the end of the day, it's about people. I'm not really concerned about rugby. Rugby will look after itself.

"Our minds are on our jobs and what we need to do. But we're also mindful of what's going on around the world."


Canada Roster:

Phil Berna, Vancouver, UVIC Vikes; Connor Braid, Victoria, James Bay AA; Justin Douglas, Abbotsford, B.C., Abbotsford RFC; Mike Fuailefau, Victoria, Castaway Wanderers; Lucas Hammond, Toronto, UVIC Vikes; Nathan Hirayama (co-capt.), Richmond, B.C., unattached; Harry Jones (co-capt.), West Vancouver, Capilano RFC; Isaac Kaay, Kamloops, B.C., UVIC Vikes; Pat Kay, Duncan, B.C., Castaway Wanderers; David Richard, Milton, Ont., Mississauga Blues; Theo Sauder, Vancouver, Toronto Arrows; Jake Thiel, Abbotsford, B.C., Abbotsford RFC; Conor Trainor, Vancouver, RC Vannes (France).


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2020.


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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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