Veteran Ashley Steacy, a cornerstone of the Canadian women's rugby sevens team, will play her final tournament at the Clermont-Ferrand Sevens later this month.
The 29-year-old from Lethbridge, Alta., is retiring after the event, the final stop on the six-event HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series. She will be looking to leave on a winning note, helping Canada defend the title it won last year in France.
Coach John Tait says Steacy, a pocket dynamo at five foot two and 145 pounds, has left her mark on the Canadian team.
"She's been around since Day 1, a pretty important part of the team," Tait said Wednesday after naming his team. "A quiet leader."
Steacy often marshalled the Canada defence, hitting with a ferocity that belies her size.
After Rio, she remained in the program but was no longer part of the centralized training squad in Victoria. Instead she opted to return home to her home and husband in Alberta, training on her own between events.
Steacy, who has served as captain of the sevens squad, earned her first caps for Canada with both the sevens and 15-woman team a decade ago.
A two-time Canadian university player of the year, she played in the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009 and 2013 and at the Rugby World Cup in 2010. Steacy also helped Canada win sevens gold at the 2015 Pan-American Games and bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Steacy came back from shoulder surgery in 2014 — she was named to the 2014-15 World Series Dream Team and chosen Rugby Canada's Women's Sevens Player of the Year — and two knee injuries to make it to Rio.
Clermont-Ferrand will be her 18th event on the world circuit.
Canada, which was runner-up to New Zealand last month in Langford, B.C., is currently tied with Australia in the overall World Series standings with 82 points. Series leader New Zealand has 96 points while fourth-place Russia has 58.
The Canadian women can finish no lower than third this season, marking their fifth straight top-three World Series finish.
Canada will be without veteran Jen Kish, who fractured her pelvis on the first day of competition in Langford. Amazingly the 28-year-old from Edmonton finished out the tournament.
"She jammed it hard in a tackle onto the ground on Day 1," Tait said. "Day 2 she woke up on the morning and couldn't really move.
"As the day wore on, she got a little bit more movement in. So we didn't start her in the quarter-final and then she toughed it out in the semifinal and final and really played well."
Back home, an X-ray showed a fractured hip. She is currently awaiting results of another scan to see if there is any tear in the muscle.
A warrior, Kish was hurt at the Clermont-Ferrand sevens last year when she suffered a neck injury after being slammed into the turf.
Tait is taking 13 players to France in case an injury replacement is needed.
Pamphinette Buisa and Kaili Lukan, whose older sister Megan is a regular on the team, will be looking to win their first caps.
Canada is the top seed in Pool B, which also features Russia, England and Brazil at the June 24-25 French tournament.
Britt Benn, Guelph Redcoats, Napanee, Ont.; Pamphinette Buisa, Ottawa Irish, Gatineau, Que.; Caroline Crossley, Castaway Wanderers, Victoria; Hannah Darling, Peterborough Pagans, Warsaw, Ont.; Bianca Farella, Town of Mount Royal RFC, Montreal; Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints, Sarnia, Ont.; Ghislaine Landry (capt.), Toronto Scottish RFC, Toronto; Kaili Lukan, unattached, Barrie, Ont., Megan Lukan, unattached, Barrie, Ont.; Breanne Nicholas, London St. George RFC, Blenheim, Ont.; Ashley Steacy, Lethbridge Rugby Club, Lethbridge, Alta.; Natasha Watcham-Roy, Hull Volant, Gatineau, Que.; Charity Williams, Markham Irish, Toronto.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press