Two McGill graduates – Julianne Zussman of Montreal and Brianna Miller of Pointe Claire, Que. – are among a 28-member squad named by Canada’s senior head coach Francois Ratier for an exhibition tour in New Zealand as part of the International Women’s Rugby Series.
Canada, ranked No. 3 in the world, will face top-ranked New Zealand on June 9 before facing No.2 England on June 13. They will conclude their tour on June 17 against No. 6 Australia.
Zussman, a 29-year-old who was born in Ottawa, graduated in 2008 with an arts degree, majoring in international development studies. As a member of the McGill Martlets, she merited RSEQ rookie-of-the-year honours in 2004 and achieved RSEQ all-conference status in 2005. Also a product of the Castaway Wanderers rugby football club in Montreal, the 5-foot-6 fullback has been part of the national program since 2007 and is employed as a communications coordinator with the Canadian Sport Institute in Victoria, B.C.
Miller, 24, was a four-time RSEQ conference all-star and two-time all-Canadian during a five-year university career with the McGill Martlets (2011-2014) and Ottawa Gee-Gees (2015). The physical education graduate served as team captain and won three straight RSEQ scoring titles with McGill, becoming the team’s all-time leading scorer with 370 points in 26 career regular season contests, an average of 14.2 points per outing. A former RSEQ rookie of the year and two-time league MVP, the 5-foot-6 back was named CIS player of the year in 2013. She also helped Canada win bronze at the 2013 FISU Summer Games rugby sevens tournament in Kazan, Russia.
“It’s important to play the top teams before we go to the Women’s Rugby World Cup,” said Ratier in a release from Rugby Canada. “Also, New Zealand is the best place to continue our team bonding. Rugby is a religion there and it’s important for the players who have never been there to be exposed to their culture.”
The clash with New Zealand will be of particular interest as Canada will face the Black Ferns in the pool stages of the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland in August. Canada will also battle Hong Kong and Wales in the pool stages.
“The focus is to be a better team after this tour in all aspects,” Ratier added. “New Zealand are number one in the world and in our World Cup pool while England are the reigning World Champions and Australia will show they deserve a better ranking than where they are now.”
Canada is coming off of a dominant victory in the 2017 Can-Am Series as they dismantled the USA 39-5 and 37-10 in their two-game series in San Diego.
Captained by Kelly Russell, the squad features 25 returnees from the Can-Am Series. Alex Tessier, who missed the Can-Am Series with injury, is recalled while Chelsey Minter and Kristy Sargent were also named to the team.