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Canada happy with draw for Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in Dubai

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Canada was placed in a pool with South Africa, Scotland and Japan at Monday's draw for the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Springboks currently lead the International Rugby Board Sevens standings after winning the first two rounds of the 2008-09 season - in Dubai and George, South Africa. Still Doug Tate, the Canadian team's technical director, was happy with his Pool C placement for the 24-country tournament March 5-7 in Dubai.

"That's a good draw actually," he said from Vancouver Island. "South Africa's playing very well right now. They're in probably the top three but we tend to do not bad against South Africa. We had some good games (against them) last year. We lost to them in the last minute of the game. We've beat Scotland in the past - and Japan.

"As far as the draw goes, that's not too bad."

For the first time, a 16-team women's sevens event will run at the same time as the men's World Cup competition. The Canadian women were drawn with Brazil, Spain and Thailand in Pool C.

The Canadian men are using IRB Sevens events in New Zealand and the U.S. next month to choose its 12-man roster for the World Cup. The Canadians will be able to measure themselves against the Springboks in San Diego, where they have been drawn in the same group.

The touring squad for New Zealand and the U.S. includes David Moonlight, who retired from the sevens circuit last year, former Canadian 15-man captain Morgan Williams and last year's sevens skipper Philip Mack.

Tate and Canadian coach Shane Thompson will be able to add James Pritchard and Justin Mensah Coker to the World Cup squad. Both players were not released by their English club teams for the New Zealand and U.S. tournaments. DTH van der Merwe, however, is still recovering from a broken ankle.

Canada is not longer a core team in the seven series and, as such, missed the first two stops on this season's eight-event sevens season that is wrapped around the World Cup tournament. Canada, which finished 16th on the circuit last season, was replaced by the U.S. as a core team and will have to play its way back into core status.

Defending champion Fiji will face France, Georgia and the U.S. in Pool B, after winning the Melrose Cup at the last tournament four years ago in Hong Kong. New Zealand, winners in 2001, are joined in Pool A by Tonga, the host Arabian Gulf and Italy.

Pool D features fourth-seeded Samoa, Australia, Portugal and Ireland while Pool E brings together 1993 champion England, Kenya, Tunisia and Hong Kong. Pool F features Argentina, Wales, Zimbabwe and Uruguay.

The six pool winners and best two runners-up advance to the Melrose Cup quarter-finals, while the four other runners-up and four best sides that finish third in their pool will contest the Plate. The remaining sides play in the Bowl.

One drawback for Canada is there is no patsy in its group. Teams can improve their position by running up the score against such teams in the race to become one of the top-ranked runners-up.

"There's no easy pool at the World Cup," Scotland coach Stephen Gemmell was quoted on irb.com. "As for our draw, we've got South Africa once again who are flying this year. And despite Canada not being a core team anymore, they have been before and have always performed well. Japan are another exciting team that are well suited to playing rugby sevens."

The eight Melrose Cup quarter-finalists from 2005 pre-qualified along with the host Arabian Gulf. The other 15 countries made their way through qualifying rounds.

Canada advanced by blanking the host Bahamas 33-0, Trinidad and Tobago 48-0, Cayman Islands 41-0, Bermuda 48-0 and Guyana 42-0 before losing 35-10 to the Americans in the North America West Indies Rugby Association (NAWIRA) Zone qualifying tournament last October in Nassau.

On the women's side, top-seeded England is in Pool B with Japan, Russia and the U.S. Second-seeded Australia is in Pool A with the Netherlands, France and China. Pool D features New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Uganda.

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