TORONTO — Sandro Fiorino has been named interim head coach of the Canadian women's rugby team for its November tour to England.
It promises to be a stiff challenge.
England, runner-up to New Zealand in this summer's Women's World Cup in Ireland, is ranked second in the world. And many of the players who represented fourth-ranked Canada at the World Cup are taking time away from the sport or have stepped aside.
That includes captain Kelly Russell and winger Karen Paquin.
Fiorino, 45, says he will be taking a "very young, eager but inexperienced team" to England.
"My expectations are simple," he added. "Players put in effort and we just get better each day."
The Canadian women leave Nov. 13 for games against England on Nov. 17, 21 and 25.
The head coaching job became open when Francois Ratier left to become head coach of Rugby Canada's national fifteens academy.
Thanks to his many rugby responsibilities, Fiorino has a good handle on the young talent coming through the ranks.
Fiorino has been assistant coach of Canada's women's sevens team since 2011, helping head coach John Tait and the team win bronze medal at the Rio Olympics. He has also served as head coach of the women's under-20 side.
He moved back to Toronto last year to oversee the Canada Sevens Academy, where some 40 young female players are honing their skills. Fiorino, who also coaches the women's under-18 sevens team, runs the Toronto hub but there are also athletes training in Ottawa and Guelph.
Some of his charges have already graduated to the senior team in Langford, B.C.
One of his specialties is talent identification. Fiorino spotted Ghislaine Landry a dozen years ago at a high school tournament. She is now Canada's sevens captain and a finalist for World Rugby's women's sevens player of the year.
Rugby Canada says it will review the entire women's program after the England tour and decide on a full-time coach.
"Our goal is to strengthen our world ranking and continue to develop the entire women's program over the next four-year cycle leading into 2021, and this tour in November is the beginning of that process," Jim Dixon, Rugby Canada's general manager of rugby operations and performance, said in a statement.
Fiorino, who is a full-time coach with Rugby Canada, said he would be interested in the permanent women's job if he could combine it with his current duties.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter