Canada Cup the final test ahead of 2018 Worlds

Paralympic and world wheelchair rugby medallists face off 15 Jun 2018
a group of male wheelchair rugby players celebrating on the court

Australia are the reigning Paralympic and world wheelchair rugby champions

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By NPC Canada, NPC Australia and IPC

With the 2018 World Championships set for August, Canada’s national wheelchair rugby team faces a serious test this week with the six-country Canada Cup at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

Round-robin play is running from 14-16 June, with the tournament finals taking place on Sunday (17 June). Games are being live streamed on Sports Canada TV.

‘’It’s always a fun tournament because it is the last one before a major competition,’’ said Trevor Hirschfield, Canada’s team captain. ‘’We’ll get an opportunity to see the teams we’ll be playing against at the Worlds.

‘’This is a good measuring stick.’’

Canada face arch-rivals Australia – the reigning Paralympic and world champions – and the USA – defending Canada Cup champions and Rio 2016 runners-up. Sweden, Denmark and Japan are also in action.

Canada missed the podium at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio for the first time in four Games. They lost to Japan, and since then Canada have some new additions to the team. Their best player Zac Maddell is currently focused on his studies and will not play this season. Still there is a strong veteran presence with seven players with Paralympic experiences. Besides Hirschfield there is Cody Caldwell, Patrice Dagenais, Fabien Lavoie, Travis Murao, Patrice Simard and Mike Whitehead. The newcomers are Matt Debly, Anthony Letourneau, Eric Rodrigues, Shayne Smith and Branden Troutman.

‘’This team is a lot of fun,’’ said Hirschfield. ‘’As a veteran you’re excited for the players making their debut at a big tournament like this. You feed off all that and it makes it fresh for the veterans again.’’

This will also be the first major tournament for Patrick Cote, named the head coach of Team Canada in February 2017.

‘’We saw some of these teams last year so we’ll definitely get an idea of how our progression is going with our squad and our young players,’’ said Cote. ‘’But definitely with these challenges we want to make sure we follow the right procedures to develop our new players for (Tokyo) 2020.’’

While Canada try to return as medal contenders, Australia will get a chance to show why they are the World Championship favourites.

Held biennially since 2004, Australia have lifted the Canada Cup trophy only twice, in 2010 and 2014.

“This [tournament] is crucial to our preparation for Worlds,” said Australian head coach Brad Dubberley. “The Canada Cup has long been the last chance hit-out for teams before the major event of that year, being the World Championships or Paralympics. We need to make sure we learn as much as we can about our opponents and form a really good understanding of our roles."