Maple Leaf Team for Dubai Announced: 6 Centralized, 6 Club Players; CFL Speedster Tevaughan Campbell Debut
While the men's and women's national teams get most of the press in Dubai, there's the men's invitational tournament that's worth following. Canada are sending the Maple Leaf team, these are the next level players who will provide backup for the national team during the long World Rugby 7s season, covering for injuries and providing a pathway for those excelling at this level. Six of the players selected are part of the centralized program, those that didn't get the call for the national team this time around. Six are club players who have caught the eye of coach Damian McGrath.
The centralized players who didn't make it to the top stage this tournament include Luke Bradley, Josiah Morrah, Jake Thiel, Jared Douglas, Luke McCloskey and Tevaughan Campbell. This will be Tevaughan's first tournament as a rugby player, he's actually not played rugby before and is being brought in due to his blistering, Perry Baker like, speed. This should be interesting and if we find some video of the invitational tournament we'll be sure to post online. He left the CFL where he played for Saskatchewan Roughriders and Montreal Alouettes and is now located in Victoria ready to focus on Rugby 7s. Jared Douglas was playing well last year and made the top team, he didn't look all that comfortable in the preseason tournament in California and has to work his way back onto the national squad. Same holds true for Luke Bradley who is still trying to crack the top squad on a consistent basis. Luke McCloskey is captaining the team and is probably the first to go up if injuries occur. Josiah Morra has some speed but his decision making and ball security need improvement. Jake Thiel is a young player still growing into his role in the 7s squad. Bradley and Thiel will play a forwards role and Jared Douglas is big enough to slot into this role as well. McCloskey will have a play making role, either at scrum half or fly half. Morrah and Campbell will be the outside speed.
Tevaughan Campbell setting CFL 40 record at 4.355
There's a good selection of club players and some of the outstanding talent may come from here. Aaron McLelland is a deceptive runner with a lot of confidence, the video below shows one of his tries from last weekend where he weaves through and then outpaces the cover defence. We wouldn't be surprised if he racks up the most tries for the team. Jared Stephens was a find from Nanaimo, a forest firefighter during the summer, he's a physical player who can run both around and over defenders. He might be used in a forwards capacity, he's fast enough to play in the backline but physical enough to be in the forwards. In the video below he scores the first try, he keeps his balance well and he's hard to take down. Clayton Meeres from James Bay is built in a similar mold and both play in the centres for their respective teams. James Pitblado is a scrum half and along with James Hammond provide depth at the halfbacks. Aiden McMullen from UVic is another back with good speed.
video from tweet by @analysis_sport
A few others were considered but unavailable due to injury. Theo Sauder suffered a potential concussion during the university championships and is out of play during evaluation. Marcello Wainwright was another candidate but has a broken hand and Andrew Coe is with the national XVs team in Europe.
The Maple Leaf team has generally been a disappointment in recent years, their appearances in the South American tournaments in particular have been poor. This looks a fairly good team, they have some good speed but may lack a bit in the physicality department with only Bradley, Douglas and Thiel fitting in the XVs loose forward category. Centres Jared Stephens and Clayton Meeres will have to pick up some of the slack in that department in order for the team to be successful. Also we'll see how fast (excuse the pun) Tevaughan Campbell picks up the game of 7s and if he can be an asset so early on.
They have some tough opponents on Friday, Day 1 in Pool B. They take on Samurai International first at 15:40 Dubai time (they're 12 hours ahead, so 3:40am PT). Samurai are one of the legendary Barbarian style teams and get some of the best players from across the globe, this will be a stern first test. Next up doesn't get easier, the South Africa Academy 7s at 18:40. South Africa are current world champions, their Academy side will be one of the favourites in the tournament. The last match of the day should be a bit easier... maybe, Monaco IMPIS, which has been dubbed the "Monaco South Africa Rugby Exchange". It has 5 Monaco national team players and 7 South African players, that match is 21:00 so a more reasonable 9am PT.
Pool B is one of the toughest. Pool A is The Royals, Free Sevens, Zambia, Speranza. Pool C France Development, Old Georgians, Ireland, Germany - also a tough pool. Pool D is Georgia, Froggies, Germany Development, Kukri Cobra Select.
Maple Leaf 7s Dubai
1. Luke Bradley (7s program) 2. Josiah Morra (7s program) 3. Jake Thiel (7s program) 4. Clayton Meeres (James Bay) 5. James Hammond (Toronto Nomads) 6. Jared Douglas (7s program) 7. Tevaughan Campbell (7s program) 8. Luke McCloskey (Capt) (7s program) 9. Aiden McMullan (UVic Vikes) 10. James Pitblado (UVic Vikes) 11. Jared Stephens (Nanaimo Hornets) 12. Aaron McClelland (UBCOB Ravens)
Theo Sauder (concussion) Marcello Wainwright (broken hand) Andrew Coe (Canada XVs)