Canada Sevens players boycott training over new centralised structure

by staff

Canada's Sevens players have reportedly boycotted training sessions over a new centralised training model that pools XVs and Sevens players together.

A new model announced by Rugby Canada last month proposed a shift to a centralised group of 40-50 players who would all be available for the men's XVs or Sevens programs.

The move was made with the view to ensuring the men's XVs program was the priority for the country, heading into the 2019 Rugby World Cup and beyond.

There has been months of discussions between Rugby Canada and its Sevens players to try and resolve the issue but the national body is unlikely to budge.

Thirteen of the side's Sevens players reportedly boycotted training this week over the shift and are looking at legal avenues to challenge the restructure.

Canada co-captains Nate Hirayama and Harry Jones took to Twitter to express their frustration over the treatment of Sevens this season.

The decision to condense the programs has also reduced the payments for Sevens players, who were already on relatively modest payment structures, something CEO Allen Vansen said last month was a natural consequence with money needing to be spread across the whole program. 

Tier Two nations like Canada rely heavily on World Rugby's high performance funding that is based on a country's XVs programs in a bid to increase the competitiveness of the Rugby World Cup.

Rugby Canada chairman Tim Powers said in August that the shift was necessary to keep that funding coming through.

"Rugby Canada's board of directors has clearly stated that our men's XVs program is the priority program for the union," he said in a statement.

"In the environment in which we live, key core funding for our entire union is driven by our Men's Fifteens performance."

Thirteen of the current Sevens squad have reportedly boycotted training over the decision, though Rugby Canada looks unlikely to budge.

CEO Allen Vansen said at the time of the announcement Sevens was still going to be a 'key development' program for the XVs program, something that has infuriated the full-time Sevens players.

“This is a critically important evolution that is necessary to build depth in our national talent pool, and meet our objectives as a leading Rugby Nation,” he said in a statement.

“Qualification for the 2019 Men’s Rugby World Cup is of paramount importance for all of Rugby Canada’s operations & Canadian Rugby in general.”

Until now, the Sevens and XVs sides have generally been self-contained and many of the country's top XVs players even play overseas.

Canada's men's XVs side is yet to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, with the team preparing for a last-gasp repechage later on this year.