Canadian national men's sevens coach Geraint John is excited for the future of the shortened version of the sport in Canada, after naming four potential IRB circuit debutants to his squad for Dubai and Port Elizabeth.
John has named a 12-man squad riddled with mix of youth and experience, after a weekend camp in Victoria, B.C., gave him one-last look at his options for Canada's first two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
"We've named a core group of experienced players and some youngsters who really have the potential to develop," John said. "The young guys impressed greatly with their skills and their ability to play the game."
The Dubai and Port Elizabeth tournaments run on Dec. 2 to 3 and 9 to 10 respectively.
New to the circuit and the Canada's national sevens outfit, John has brought Youth Commonwealth Games athletes Lukas Balkovec, Lucas Hammond and Conor McCann into the fold. Connor Braid, who played for Canada's 15s side in the 2010 Churchill Cup, is also set to make his sevens debut.
"It's exciting times," John said. "We need to have an eye for the future and getting young players involved is a way to do that. We're excited to be able to give the young guys a go."
John credits much of the development of these players to Canada's under-18 program, which finished fifth at the Youth Commonwealth Games in the Isle of Man in September.
"Having the under-18 program was a huge bonus and we need to look at having more development like this," John said. "The more we do, the better it will be because it has certainly paid off in dividends in developing players."
As part of his selection process, and on top of annual develop camps, John holds a selection camp a week prior to each tour and last weekend's proved fruitful as several positions were up for grabs with six of Canada's Pan American Games gold medalists unavailable due to injury, professional contracts or university studies.
"Certain circumstances have opened up an opportunity for these younger players. We felt they deserved their selection," John said.
However, the remaining six of Canada's golden boys return to the sevens jersey for Dubai and Port Elizabeth, led by captain and IRB Top 20 sevens scorer Phil Mack, who has tallied more than 600 points for Canada.
Pan Am athletes Sean Duke, Ciaran Hearn, Nathan Hirayama, John Moonlight and Sean White also retain their red and white strips after strong contributions in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Hearn, Hirayama and White were also part of Canada's Rugby World Cup efforts in New Zealand.
Returning to the sevens fold from the 2010 circuit are Dustin Dubrovsky and Beau Parker.
Canadian men's sevens squad - Dubai, Port Elizabeth
1. Lukas Balkovec (Kitchener, ON) (University of Western Ontario)
2. Connor Braid (Victoria, BC) (BC Bears)
3. Dustin Dobravsky (Regina, SK) (University of Victoria Vikes)
4. Sean Duke (Vancouver, BC) (BC Bears)
5. Lucas Hammond (Toronto, ON) (Toronto Nomads)
6. Ciaran Hearn (Conception Bay South, NL) (The Rock)
7. Nathan Hirayama (Richmond, BC) (BC Bears)
8. Phil Mack (Victoria, BC) (The Rock)
9. Conor McCann (Toronto, ON) (Ontario Blues)
10. John Moonlight (Pickering, ON) (Ontario Blues)
11. Beau Parker (Victoria, BC) (University of Victoria Vikes)
12. Sean White (Victoria, BC) (BC Bears)
Kieran Crowley - Assistant coach
Brian Hunter - Manager
Ben Suen - Therapist
Players not considered for selection: Tyler Ardron (school commitments), Justin Mensah Coker (retired from playing), Nanyak Dala (work), Thyssen de Goede (injury), Matt Evans (professional club commitments), Sean Ferguson (injury), Kyle Gilmour (injury), Mitch Gudgeon (retired from playing), Jeff Hassler (injury), Neil Meechan (retired from playing), Chauncey O'Toole (professional club commitments), Taylor Paris (injury), Mike Sholz (injury) and Conor Trainor (school commitments).