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Magali Harvey set to make return for Canada 15s rugby team in England test

Magali Harvey, the 2014 Women’s Rugby Player of the Year, is in line for her first cap in almost five years when fourth-ranked Canada takes on No. 1 England in a rugby test match Saturday. Harvey tosses the ball during a demonstration session in Montreal on Wednesday, December 16, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Magali Harvey, named World Rugby's Women’s Player of the Year in 2014, is in line for her first cap in almost five years when fourth-ranked Canada takes on No. 1 England in a rugby test match Saturday.

The 33-year-old wing from Quebec City, who recently signed with France's Stade Bordelais, last played for the Canadian 15s team in November 2018 against Wales.

Canada coach Kevin Rouet said he asked Harvey, who had been playing in Spain, to find a good training environment. Harvey also impressed in workouts with the sevens side.

"She's a great player and she has experience … She's very motivated," said Rouet.

Harvey will start on the bench Saturday at Sandy Park, home of the Exeter Chiefs, where Canadian starters Emily Tuttosi, DaLeaka Menin and Alexandra Tessier play their club rugby.

The two teams meet again Sept. 30 at London's StoneX Stadium, home of Saracens and Canadians Alex Ellis, McKinley Hunt, Emma Taylor, Mata Montiel and captain Sophie de Goede.

Rouet's matchday 23 includes nine who play their club rugby in England and four in France.

Harvey made headlines at the 2014 Rugby World Cup with a highlight-reel try in the 18-16 semifinal win over host France that saw her race the length of the field, beating two defenders and outpacing two more to score in the corner. Canada went on to finish runner-up at the tournament, losing 21-9 to England in the final.

Harvey, who served as Canada's placekicker, finished second in tournament scoring with 61 points including four tries.

She has spoken her mind in the past, criticizing then-sevens coach John Tait for not picking her for the 2016 Rio Olympics. In justifying his decision, Tait cited Harvey’s inconsistent play and an ankle injury that forced her to sit out four months.

Canada last played England in the semifinal of the World Cup in November, pushing the Red Roses to the limit before falling 26-19 in November in Auckland.

It's England first match since April when the Red Roses defeated France 38-33 to complete a Women's Six Nations Grand Slam. England led 33-0 at the half before a record crowd of 58,498 at Twickenham.

It's also the first outing for the English women since Simon Middleton stepped down as coach. Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell will take over after the men's World Cup in France, where he is currently serving as Japan's defence coach.

Forwards coach Louis Deacon is serving as interim coach.

"Canada have a great set piece which will be a test for us but I think, having looked back at that (World Cup semifinal) game, they also challenged us in ways that we didn't think they would," said Deacon, a former England international. "They kicked the ball a lot more than we thought we would and the ball-in-play time for that game was one of the highest that we've had for a long time.

"And that's why we wanted to play Canada, because they're one of the best teams that are going to pose a threat across the field and we're really looking forward to it."

England has won five straight since losing 34-31 to New Zealand in the World Cup final, a defeat that ended a three-year, 30-game winning streak.

"Even there is a change of coach, there is still a lot of continuity in the way England is working," said Rouet. 

The English women, who have had an extensive training camp ahead of the Canada series, are all on professional contracts.

"They have a good life, let's say that," said the French-born Rouet.

England has won the last nine meetings with Canada, which last beat the Red Roses in July 2016 in Salt Lake City (52-17). The Red Roses have gone 70-5-0 since that loss, beaten four times by New Zealand and once by France. 

Canada has never beaten the Red Roses in 12 matches on British soil, losing 51-12 the last time they met in November 2021 in London.

The England games serve as a warmup for next month's WXV, a new three-tier annual women's 15s competition that will see the Canadians face England, No. 3 France and No. 6 Wales in a top division that also features No. 2 New Zealand, the tournament host, and No. 5 Australia.

Canada's matchday roster includes 16 players involved in the World Cup semifinal and 20 who took part in the Pacific Four Series in Ottawa in July. 

Tessier and Taylor Perry both return from injury layoffs. Tessier, who starts at fullback, has not played for Canada since April while Perry, who starts on the bench, suffered a knee injury in training ahead of Canada’s World Cup opener in October. 

Claire Gallagher, who won her first cap in July in the 52-21 loss to New Zealand in Ottawa, starts at fly half.

Florence Symonds and Olivia Apps, who also made their 15s debut against the Black Ferns, are also in the matchday squad. Symonds starts on the wing Saturday while Apps is on the bench.

Symonds and Apps both helped the Canadian sevens teams qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics in August.

Canada qualified for the WXV by finishing runner-up to New Zealand in the Pacific Four Series.

Rouet is missing several players with veteran Karen Paquin taking a break from rugby, Brianna Miller pregnant and Sara Kaljuvee focusing on university studies. Cassandra Tuffnail, Pamphinette Buisa and Montiel are injured.


Canada Roster

McKinley Hunt, King City, Ont., Saracens (England); Emily Tuttosi, Souris, Man., Exeter Chiefs (England); DaLeaka Menin, Vulcan, Alta., Exeter Chiefs (England); Tyson Beukeboom, Uxbridge, Ont., Ealing Trailfinders (England); Courtney Holtkamp, Rimbey, Alta., Red Deer Titans Rugby; Gabrielle Senft, Regina, Castaway Wanderers; Fabiola Forteza, Quebec City, Stade Bordelais (France); Sophie de Goede, (capt.), Saracens (England); Justine Pelletier, Riviere-du-Loup, Que., Stade Bordelais (France); Claire Gallagher, Caledon, Ont., University of Ottawa; Florence Symonds, Hong Kong, UBC; Madison Grant, Cornwall, Ont., Cornwall Claymores; Fancy Bermudez, Edmonton, Westshore RFC; Paige Farries, Red Deer, Alta., Worcester Warriors (England); Alexandra Tessier, Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, Que., Exeter Chiefs (England).


Gillian Boag, Calgary, Capilano RFC; Olivia DeMerchant, Mapledale, N.B., Halifax Tars RFC; Alexandria Ellis, Ottawa, Saracens (England); Laetitia Royer, Loretteville, Que., ASM Romagnat (France); Sara Svoboda, Belleville, Ont., Loughborough Lightning (England); Olivia Apps, Lindsay, Ont., Lindsay RFC; Taylor Perry, Oakville, Ont., Oakville Crusaders; Magali Harvey, Quebec City, Stade Bordelais (France). 


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2023

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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