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Island women’s rugby stalwart makes positive debut for Canada, eyes World Cup

Renee Gonzalez says atmosphere around the national program is positive
University of Victoria Vikes player Renee Gonzalez, left, here in action for Canada against the U.S. during HSBC Canada Sevens play in Vancouver in September, made her debut for national 15s side recently. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

When the Canadian women’s rugby team stepped out to face the USA on Nov. 2, there were some fresh faces, among them Renee Gonzalez.

The University of Victoria student was making her debut Canada’s 15’s team on the wing.

It was a memorable night for the women’s rugby program and for Gonzalez, who scored her first try for her country, helping Canada win 15-9.

“It was an unreal feeling having the support around me,” she said. “I can’t wait to continue chasing that feeling and being with my team and having those little celebrations on the field – and big celebrations too, hopefully.”

READ MORE: Canada’s women 15s rugby team returns to action with tight win over U.S.

Canada made it two wins in a week over the U.S. last Friday (Nov. 5) and captured the inaugural World Rugby Pacific Four Series title with a 26-13 win.

Gonzalez, originally from Scarborough, Ont. has played four years for the UVic Vikes and said university rugby helped prepare her for stepping up to the next level.

She’s no stranger to the national team program, however, having played for the sevens team in Vancouver earlier this year. But preparations have been made challenging by the pandemic.

“Since COVID, we’ve all been training in our own environments and playing with our own teams,” she said. “So coming together and having these opportunities to collectively play at a national level, it prepares us for the World Cup and what’s to come.”

Rugby Canada as a whole has been looking to the future, after some tough results in the past year.

After the women’s sevens team had a disappointing finish (ninth) at the Tokyo Olympics and concerns were raised about a negative culture within the program, the organization announced it would be conducting a high-performance review.

“For me being new to the program, I think it’s a very positive atmosphere, especially knowing some of the background of where the program has come from,” Gonzalez said. “I think that it’s moving in the right direction.”

ALSO READ: Rugby Canada provides details of its high-performance program review

The Women’s Rugby World cup, originally scheduled for New Zealand this year, was postponed to October 2022. Canada’s previous highest finish in the competition was third. Gonzalez said the goal this time is to win gold.

Up first, however, the womens 15s head to the UK for a Nov. 14 match against world No. 1-ranked England.


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