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Canadian rugby women eyeing 2017 World Cup championship

Canadian rugby women eyeing 2017 World Cup championship

The Canadian women’s rugby team starts 2017 believing a world championship is within its reach.

For the only one of Rugby Canada’s four senior teams that isn’t centralized, it seems a bold goal. But Francois Ratier’s 15s squad, runner-up three years ago at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, has battled England for No. 2 in the world rankings in recent months and will get an early crack at top-ranked New Zealand at the World Cup this August in Ireland.

“I completely believe in this team and what we can do,” said captain Kelly Russell, who helped Canada to Olympic bronze in sevens play last summer. “And I believe that we could come out winning the World Cup, for sure.”

The Canadians started 2016 ranked sixth in the world and climbed as high as No. 2 before finishing the year third after a 4-2-0 campaign that featured victories over No. 2 England, No. 4 France, No. 5 Ireland and the eighth-ranked United States. Canada lost to England and No. 1 New Zealand during an awkwardly scheduled November tour that saw them play three games in a week.

Overall, Ratier’s team outscored the opposition 178-98 and ran in 25 tries last year.

Ratier saw positives in the 20-10 loss to New Zealand and the 39-6 defeat by a rested England that came three days later. Canada created chances but failed to execute on some occasions. […]

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