Canada’s Kayla Moleschi rushes past Liudmila Artamonova of United States in the women’s final at the World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in Sydney, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Rick Rycroft)

Moleschi, Canada ready to defend rugby sevens gold at Pan Am Games

Williams Lake native will captain the 2019 squad as they defend their 2015 win

Canada set the bar high in winning the women’s rugby sevens gold on home soil at the 2015 Pan American Games.

The Canadian women took no prisoners en route to the podium, outscoring its opposition 285-19 and running in 47 tries while yielding just three. After going down 7-0 in the final, Canada hammered the U.S. 55-7 for its sixth straight win.

“Definitely one to remember,” recalled Kayla Moleschi, who was part of that 2015 team and is captaining the 2019 squad.

Canada begins defence of its Pan Am title in Lima on Friday against Mexico before facing host Peru and Brazil on Saturday with playoff games Sunday.

Rugby Canada has opted for a blend of experience and youth, allowing some veterans time off to rest and recuperate after the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.

Moleschi leads a young team missing Ghislaine Landry, Bianca Farella, Britt Benn, Karen Paquin, Charity Williams, Julia Greenshields and Keyara Wardley, all of whom were part of the team that finished third at the World Series stop in Biarritz, France, last month.

Only Moleschi, Caroline Crossley, Emma Chown, Kaili Lukan and Breanne Nicholas return from the France squad.

Moleschi says there are plenty of players ready for their close-up.

“This tournament is really going to show the depth in our program,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of girls that are wanting to step up and put their hands up in the hopes of (making) the Olympics.”

“We’re a world-class team and we’re here to bring the heat,” she added.

The Canadian women, who won bronze at the 2016 Rio Games, secured automatic qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by finishing in the top four in the World Series this season.

Assistant coach Morgan Williams, a former Canadian international, will run the team in Peru with head coach John Tait back home.

As the only teams at the Games who are core members of the World Series, the Canadian and the U.S. women are expected to face off for gold once again when the dust settles.

Canada placed third, just behind the U.S. and leader New Zealand in the World Series standings.

The Americans won in Biarritz and finished on the podium in five of the six events. Canada triumphed in Kitakyushu, Japan, and had four podium finishes.

READ MORE: Moleschi, Canada claim Kitakyushu Sevens title as 2020 Olympics draw near

The U.S. is fielding a strong team in Peru, with 10 members of its World Series squad.

Moleschi, who made her World Series debut in Dubai in 2011, also helped Canada to a silver medal at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2013 and the bronze in Rio.

The 28-year-old from Williams Lake, B.C., had a break after the World Series season, enjoying some time at home.

Away from rugby, Moleschi is an entrepreneur. She has taken over a business started by older brother Curtis and now runs KM Yardworks, doing yard maintenance and landscaping.

“I love working outside, I love working with my hands,” she said. “You see an instant result when you get to do that stuff and that’s kind of what I really enjoy.

“It resembles a bit of my lifestyle in rugby. I work hard and I’m able to put forward maximum effort and I see results.”

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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