Head coach John Tait talks to his team during women’s sevens rugby action against Japan at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. A complaint from members of the Canadian women’s sevens team has prompted Rugby Canada to call in an independent investigator and revamp the team coaching staff. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Head coach John Tait talks to his team during women’s sevens rugby action against Japan at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. A complaint from members of the Canadian women’s sevens team has prompted Rugby Canada to call in an independent investigator and revamp the team coaching staff. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Rugby Canada launches probe, revamps women’s 7s coaching staff after players complain

The sevens side is coached by John Tait, Rugby Canada’s director of women’s high performance

A complaint from members of the Canadian women’s sevens team has prompted Rugby Canada to call in an independent investigator and revamp the team coaching staff.

The sevens side is coached by John Tait, a former Canadian international who serves as Rugby Canada’s director of women’s high performance. The 47-year-old coached the sevens women to a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and gold at the 2015 Pan-American Games.

In its five-paragraph release Friday, Rugby Canada did not name Tait, say who was the subject of the investigation or specify the complaint. But Tait does not figure in the new-look coaching setup.

“Of course, matters of employment and confidentiality are really important to us. I would ask you to draw your own conclusions,” Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen said in an interview when asked if Tait was involved in the complaint.

In a subsequent email, he said: “matters related to employees are confidential.”

Vansen said he could not provide further details about the complaint other than to say: “I can certainly share that the complaints are from multiple individuals.”

Tait, in a text to The Canadian Press, said he can’t comment at this time but hoped to be able to speak on the matter in the coming weeks.

“It’s surreal,” he said.

Tait, an imposing figure at six foot eight, won 37 caps for Canada from 1997 to 2002. He played professionally in Wales with Cardiff and France with CA Brive.

He has been a coaching constant at Rugby Canada for more than a decade, having served as an assistant coach with the men’s 15s team and head coach of the women’s 15s team prior to taking over the sevens women. Last August, the father of three was given additional responsibilities, handed the high-performance role on the women’s side in addition to his sevens head coaching duties.

Team captain Ghislaine Landry confirmed that the complaint was made by members of the team but declined further comment.

In the statement, Vansen said: “Rugby Canada is taking these concerns very seriously. We are following our internal policies and procedures that are in alignment with established national response guidelines, and in a manner that reflects our values.”

He said he hoped the investigator’s report will be completed by the end of March. “And we have been assured it will be no later than mid-April.”

The clock is ticking. The Olympic rugby sevens competition is scheduled for July 26-31 in Tokyo. And reputations are at stake.

The Canadian women are a medal threat. They were third in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings when the season shut down after five events last year, having finished runner-up at three events and third at a fourth.

Canada was third overall the previous season, lifting the trophy at the Kitakyushu Sevens in Japan in April 2019. It marked the first cup win for the Canadian women since 2017.

Sandro Fiorino, head coach of the women’s 15s team, has temporarily moved from Ontario to Langford, to serve as interim sevens coach with help from Maria Gallo, an assistant coach with the 15s team.

Mick Byrne, a specialist coach with both New Zealand and Australia who has consulted remotely with the Canadian sevens side since 2012, “will assume the role of national senior women’s sevens interim head coach through to the Olympic Games.” Rugby Canada said in the statement.

Byrne is not currently in Canada. Vansen said Rugby Canada is working on the necessary paperwork to get him into the country.

“We remain united and focused on our goal of winning a medal at the Olympic Games.” Landry said in email to The Canadian Press. “We are training together and are confident in the interim plan. We look forward to working with Mick, Sandro and Maria.”

The World Series ground to a halt when the pandemic stuck. Rugby Canada says the women are expected to travel to a tournament in early April with Byrne expected to join the team on the trip.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Labour Minister Harry Bains addressing Surrey Board of Trade digital meeting Friday. (Screen shot)
Labour Minister says Surrey businesses’ resilience through pandemic ‘impressive’

‘Surrey’s effort in bending the curve has been among the best,’ Harry Bains says

Raj Singh Toor (left) with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudea after an official apology for the treatment of Komagata Maru passengers in 1914. (Contributed photo)
Request made for City of White Rock to honour Komagata Maru passengers

Raj Singh Toor confident city will rename ‘street, park or city asset’ in honour of 1914 tragedy

Saulteaux Cree – Saskatchewan hide and rabbit moccasins by Edith Cyr (1914-2000). (Shared with permission by Diane Jubinville)
Delta students to ‘Roc their Mocs’ March 11

Event to “teach about diversity, identity of different cultures around the world”

Cloverdale robbery suspect. (Surrey RCMP photo)
Man charged in relation to four separate robberies in Cloverdale

Jake Eric Henderson allegedly committed four gas station robberies in January

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

Most Read