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

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The village is hoping for a start date in early April with completion as soon as possible. (Granisle Village website photo/Houston Today)
Granisle’s curling rink to receive a facelift

Receives a $362,148 provincial grant

A huge milestone for Granisle to reach 50 years, said Mayor. (Village of Granisle photo/Lakes District News)
Granisle’s 50 years anniversary celebration postponed

The celebrations are now set to be held in 2022

Topley is part of the 10 projects funded in the north. (Laura Blackwell photo/Houston Today)
Topley to receive economic funding

Part of province’s $20.7 million Climate Adaptation Program

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Most Read