Pic Caption: Top row l-r: Aaron Carpenter, Gaston Mieres, Lucas Rumball, Cole Keith, Guiseppe du Toit
Bottom row l-r: Leandro Leivas, me, Dan Moor
As the Toronto Arrows prepare for their final road match of the season with the Utah Warriors this Saturday, the team decided to let the media have a taste of what their training sessions are like. Lucas Rumball, Dan Moor, Guiseppe du Toit, Cole Keith, Leandro Leivas, and Gaston Mieres where on hand to help guide the media members through some drills. As always the drills were overseen by assistant coach Aaron Carpenter and GM Mark Winokur. It has been about 6 years since I have been on a rugby pitch myself so it was quite intimidating to get back out there with some elite talent. I was given the chance to do my best Andrew Quattrin impression throwing lineout balls to Lucas Rumball. We also participated in a few passing and tackling drills. The morning also allowed Layman’s Sports a chance to talk with the players and coaching staff to get an idea into their mindset heading into the 2nd half of the season.
The Arrows are currently sitting 6th in MLR with 17 points and a 3-4-0 record. They have Utah this weekend then back home for 8 straight home games. The most difficult part of the season is over and the Arrows are feeling very confident. Every player in attendance was very clear. The Arrows believe they can run the table at home. Keith believes that the Arrows can beat every team in the league. He specifically highlighted the losses to Seattle and Rugby United New York as two games the Arrows let slip through their fingers. The Arrows lost both of those games with the opposing teams taking the lead late in the match. Moor and Rumball don’t want to look past Utah but believe that the Arrows will be in excellent shape if they can return home with a .500 record.
Following the conclusion of the Americas Rugby Championship, the Arrows now have their full roster available to them. This has led to some intense competition at training for the starting jerseys. Keith said that he is happy that Morgan Mitchell is on the team because having a prop of Mitchell’s calibre on the Arrows will only make him a better player. Keith is coming off an ARC tournament where he received plenty of quality playing time with Canada. Keith started 3 games and played the full 80 minutes in 2 of them. Now he returns to the Arrows determined to get his starting job back from Mitchell, who has been one of the Arrows best players this year. “I can’t take a game off. Or a training session off.” Keith said. He is welcoming the competition for the starting job and knows that everyone on the roster feels the same way. Moor and Rumball both expressed their excitement for having the entire Arrows roster together for training over the last week.
Last week I published my Full Strength Arrows roster. Mark Winokur described it as “about 90% accurate”. The glaring admission, as pointed out to me by Bryan Ray on twitter and Winokur in person, was flanker Marcello Wainwright. Winokur was adamant that Wainwright’s game is sometimes quiet, but incredibly solid. Rumball added that Wainwright is incredibly underrated. It’s difficult for me to argue with that since I left him off my squad. Ultimately, the Arrows believe that Wainwright is an important piece to the Arrows roster and I expect to see him in the lineup against Utah this weekend and throughout the rest of the season.
Pic caption: Leandro Leivas’ Mate
The players were also given a chance to show off their personalities. Leandro Leivas and Gaston Mieres both represented Los Teros at the ARC and are among the players that Arrows received back from the tournament. They both expressed their admiration for the facilities in Canada, especially the ones that allow them to train indoors. As with anyone traveling around the world, the Uruguayans brought a piece of their culture with them to the Arrows. Leivas introduced me to a drink known as Mate. Leivas kept the drink on the bench during the drills but brought it out while speaking with the media. Mate is a tea-like beverage that involves steeping dried leaves of yerba mate in boiling water. As Leivas demonstrated, the water is simply poured over the leaves and you drink it through a silver straw. Leivas allowed me to try some and it’s delicious. It is a lot more bitter than tea, however, it is served in a way cooler looking cup.
The Arrows roster also has plenty of local talent. Dan Moor and Lucas Rumball are the two captains of the Toronto Arrows. Moor is from Toronto and Rumball is from Scarborough. They both spoke about how excited they are to finally have an opportunity to play professional rugby in Canada. Rumball is excited for the chance to play an elite level of rugby between international matches for the first time. For Moor, he is thrilled to be part of something special and help the game further develop in Canada. Moor is also excited to run out onto the pitch in front of family, friends, and members of his local club (Balmy Beach) on April 7th. It is a chance that none of these players have had before and you can feel the excitement of Moor and his teammates.
Moor’s family and friends will be treated to quite the gameday experience. Owner Bill Webb stated that fans will be treated to an incredible atmosphere at York Alumni Stadium and Lamport Stadium. When asked what fans can expect from their gameday experience, Webb highlighted a beer garden (much like the Wolfpack), plenty of exhibition activities during halftime (possibly aimed at local clubs), various contests, giveaways, and many “special activation experiences”. Webb was reluctant to reveal exactly what “special activation experiences” means, but perhaps one of these activations will be a mate booth. Webb did mention that the most appealing aspect of an Arrows game will be the elite level of rugby.
Webb also said that with the exception of an international match “this will be the best rugby they’ve ever seen played in Canada”.
Apparently, the ticket sales also reflect that statement. Plenty of season tickets and single-game tickets have already sold. One of the biggest markets for the Arrows has been group tickets. Plenty of schools and rugby clubs from across Ontario will be making a trip to see the Arrows throughout the season. There also only remains 1 VIP tent. So if you would like the full VIP experience you need to act quickly. In regards to playing at two different stadiums, Webb said that they will reevaluate the stadium situation at the end of the year. Lamport remains unavailable until May so unless the MLR schedule shifts next year it could be a similar situation. However, if given the choice, the Arrows will look for the stadium that provides the best experience for their fans.
The Toronto Arrows will close out the road half of the season against Utah this Saturday. The 8 game homestand begins on April 7th against the NOLA Gold at York Alumni Stadium.