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Own The Podium cuts funding for Canadian men’s rugby sevens team

Canada's Nathan Hirayama, right, kicks a conversion to defeat France as teammates Harry Jones, left, and Adam Zaruba watch during World Rugby Sevens Series' Canada Sevens bowl final action, in Vancouver last March.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Rugby Canada is facing a big blow to the wallet with news that Own The Podium won't fund the Canadian men's sevens program for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The men's sevens team, which has struggled on the field in recent years, got $850,000 in OTP recommended funding in 2016-17. Rugby Canada said it is still determining the impact of the funding cuts on the men's sevens program for the remainder of the 2017 season.

"Unfortunately our on-field performance last year with our men's sevens side and our failure to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games has had an impact on our ability to access financial support through the Summer Team Sport Strategy," Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen said in a statement. "While we are disappointed that our men's sevens funding recommended by OTP has been cut for 2017/18, we have taken steps to improve our on-field performance and to further develop our men's sevens pathway."

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The Canadian men currently stand 12th in the World Series standings after four events, although they did finish fourth in Wellington under new coach Damian McGrath. He backs his starting seven players against anyone but says the program is suffering from lack of depth.

The team was 13th over all last season, ninth in 2014-15 and sixth in 2013-14. Like the women's sevens players, the men are centralized in Langford, B.C.

"With six stops remaining on the HSBC World Sevens Series we know our men's sevens team are as motivated as ever and have shown they can compete with the best in the world," Vansen said. "It is our mission to run a highly competitive, world-class men's sevens program, as we have done for the past four years, with the objective of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and competing for a medal."

The funding cut comes just weeks before the Canada Sevens, the home stop on the World Series. In its second year on the circuit, the Vancouver event has already become a hit with organizers releasing more tickets after the original allotment of 66,000 over the two days at BC Place Stadium sold out.

The Canadian women won bronze in Rio and are third in their World Series standings. They are due to receive $1,970,000 for 2017-18 thanks to OTP's Enhanced Excellence funding recommendations, according to Rugby Canada.

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