Arrows Camp in Full Swing
Source: @rhr01 via Twitter
Preparations for the 2020 Major League Rugby season are well underway for the Toronto Arrows. The arrival of the Uruguayan trio Leandro Leivas, Gaston Mieres, and Manuel Diana on Wednesday officially meant the entire squad was together for the first time in 2020.
This was a luxury that the Arrows did not have last season. The club officially joined MLR late in the year which meant time did not allow for a full training camp. Additionally, many players were away on international duty during the Americas Rugby Championship and joined part way through the season.
The ARC has been moved until after the MLR campaign and as the Arrows gear up for their 2nd season, they are able to conduct a full training camp. By all accounts, they have already benefited from it. “We have way more time to implement our systems”, said flanker Lucas Rumball. GM Mark Winokur added that “we feel like we are weeks, if not months ahead of where were last year”.
Rumball was one of seven current Arrows that represented Canada at the Rugby World Cup in Japan and another three represented Uruguay. He believes that the RWC experience has greatly helped the Arrows. “A lot of guys only had a month or two off of not touching a ball or not playing with a team. The skill is much higher and the fitness levels are much higher than they were at this time last year”.
The strength of the skill and fitness levels have allowed the Arrows to work on their system and the finer details of the game. This will allow them to enter 2020 a stronger team overall.
The RWC was not the only thing that kept Arrows players occupied during the off season. Sam Malcolm returned to New Zealand to play with the Manawatu Turbos in the Mitre 10 Cup. “To play rugby all year round is great for my development as a player,” said Malcolm.
Throughout the 2019 season, Malcolm proved himself to be an elite flyhalf in MLR. However, during the Mitre 10 Cup Malcolm lined up as the Turbos’ fullback. With the arrival of Will Kelly and Tayler Adams, Winokur now has three talented flyhalves.
Malcolm Mitre 10 Cup experience gives the Arrows the option of shifting him to fullback. “It’s nice to have choices and options and not have your hand forced,” Winokur said of the pending lineup decisions. He would not tip his hand as to who will wear the 10 jersey when the Arrows open the season in Austin citing that it is too early to tell. It will be an interesting storyline to keep an eye on as camp unfolds. Malcolm will be ready to go no matter what number is on his back stating “I’ll play wherever is best for the team”.
After a successful 2019 in MLR and Mitre 10 Cup, Malcolm received a contract offer from overseas, but chose to return to Toronto. According to Malcolm, a factor in his decision to return was largely based on the Arrows culture saying “it’s not just all about rugby”. That excellent culture helped the Arrows retain their players at a higher rate than any other MLR club.
Captain Dan Moor believes that “We do have a fantastic core of boys. I do think that one of the strengths of our program is our culture.” That has been another advantage of the longer training camp. The team has been able to organize culture nights and make sure the new players such as Canada’s RWC centre Ben LeSage and Los Pumas forward Tomas de la Vega feel at home in their new club.
However, the culture of the club is not the only thing that made Malcolm want to return. “The reason I wanted to come back was because I wanted to build on what we achieved last year”, said Malcolm. He would add “we made the semi-finals last year and it would be quite special to go one step further.” One step further is the ultimate goal.
The Arrows have their sights set on a Championship after being defeated by the Seattle Seawolves in the semi-final last year. “Externally, a lot of people thought we had a great season, but we weren’t satisfied with bowing out in the semis. Our goal is always going to be to win an MLR Championship,” said Moor. The goal for the Arrows in 2020 is crystal clear.
However, Moor knows that the road to raising the MLR Champions Shield begins here with a strong training camp. “We’ll start to see momentum and building performances in the preseason and I think we’ll be able to head into that first game away at Austin and rip into it". The Toronto Arrows quest for the MLR Champions Shield is now in full swing.
The Arrows will play two preseason matches on January 18th vs the Utah Warriors in Las Vegas, followed by a matchup with Rugby United New York on January 25th in Buffalo. Be sure to follow @BressetteTheJet and @LaymansSports for all your Arrows updates throughout camp and the 2020 MLR season.