My Full Strength Arrows Squad
Earlier this week Toronto Arrows general manager Mark Winokur hinted at the possibility that we could be seeing a full powered Arrows lineup for the first time this season against Utah. The Americas Rugby Championship took a toll on the Arrows. No other MLR team was hit harder by the ARC as the Arrows, who lost 9 players to the tournament. Jamie Mackenzie, Theo Sauder, Mike Sheppard, Lucas Rumball, Kainoa Lloyd, Cole Keith, and Guiseppe du Toit all missed time representing Canada. Leandro Levias and Gaston Mieres were also representing Uruguay at the tournament. As a result, we have yet to see a full strength Arrows side this season. However, as the team comes out of their 2nd bye week, it appears that we may finally see a full power Arrows lineup. The Arrows have gone 3-4-0 to start the season and this weekend’s match with the Utah Warriors will be their final road game of the season. With 8 straight home games and their strongest side ready to take the field, the Arrows are poised to do some serious damage in the 2nd half of the season. Avery Oitomen already called an 8-0 home stand in a clear indication that he and the team are feeling incredibly confident right now.
So what will this full powered Toronto Arrows matchday squad look like? Well, since it is a bye week and I have no Arrows games to write about, I decide to put on my Winokur and Silverthorn hat and select my ideal Toronto Arrows 23-man squad.
All right, before I begin this is my ideal Toronto Arrows lineup. This lineup assumes that everyone is available, healthy, no strategic rest days, no suspensions, and no international duties. Ultimately, this gives the coaching staff 38 players to choose from and only 23 spots to fill. However, even though I am assuming everyone is available, I will be taking their current form into consideration. Some of the decisions are easy, some of them are incredibly difficult. So without further adieu, here is the full-powered Toronto Arrows lineup (in my opinion at least).
The front row is one of the easier decisions to make. Brouwer, Quattrin, and Mitchell have been fantastic all year. They have been the backbone of the scrum which has become a centrepiece of the Arrows gameplan. Quattrin and Mitchell have both turned in man of the match performances and Brouwer a steady veteran presence in the pack. Additionally, Mitchell has been the Arrows’ best player this season. He has been an absolute force in the scrum and has demonstrated a magnificent ball carrying ability. Mitchell has had a number of powerful runs and frequently requires multiple defenders to bring his down. This is the definitive Arrows front row.
4. Mike Sheppard
5. Paul Ciulini
Again the second row is a relatively easy call. Sheppard and Ciulini are the 2 best locks on the team. Ciulini is approaching the league’s top 5 in tackles made and Sheppard is an incredibly effective ball carrier that often creates plenty of space for the backs. Sheppard has missed 2 games due to his ARC duties, but he and Ciulini have started every game the two of them were available. That will not change going forward.
6. Peter Milazzo
7. Lucas Rumball
8. Jack Nay
The back row is where the decisions start to get harder for Silverthorn. Lucas Rumball is one of the best flankers in the country and he is the captain. That locks him into the lineup every week. That leaves Peter Milazzo and John Moonlight to battle it out for the other flanker position. Moonlight is a legend, however, I think based on the caliber of his play throughout this season I will give the edge to Milazzo. Milazzo has been very effective at breakdowns and has been solid in defense this year. He has started every game this season and I really don’t see any reason why he should be taken out of the lineup. However, Milazzo’s x-factor in this debate is his proficiency in the lineout. Despite the Arrows’ struggles in this area of the game, Milazzo leads the MLR in lineout steals as well as lineout takes. This gives him the edge over Moonlight and Milazzo earns the 6 jersey.
The eightman is another difficult call. Kolby Francis has been terrific all year, but the arrival of Jack Nay has created quite the positional battle. To be honest, if I was writing this post on March 14th, I might have Francis starting over Nay. Nay appeared to struggle a bit in his debut against the San Diego Legion, however against RUNY he was terrific. Nay had a number of great carries and was excellent in support as he helped set up Guiseppe du Toit’s try. He looked like a completely different player from the one that played against San Diego a week earlier. If he keeps that level of play up heading into the back half of the season, Milazzo, Rumball, and Nay will be a terrifying back row.
9. Jamie Mackenzie
10. Sam Malcolm
Jamie Mackenzie has yet to make his MLR debut. Mackenzie served as Canada’s scrumhalf throughout the ARC. Mackenzie started 4 of the 5 games only coming off the bench when Phil Mack joined the squad for the final game against the USA Eagles. Mackenzie has earned 17 caps for Canada and has competed at the Rugby World Cup. He is the 2nd best scrumhalf in Canada (behind Mack) and even though Andrew Ferguson has been great this year, Mackenzie should be getting the starts going forward. However, because Ferguson has been playing extremely well, Mackenzie’s leash should be pretty short. The easiest starting player to pick on this Arrows team is the flyhalf. Sam Malcolm has been terrific this year. His 69 points have him sitting 3rd amongst the MLR’s leading point scorers. Malcolm has been deadly accurate with his boot this year as well. Malcolm is clearly the best flyhalf the Arrows have and he will continue to play all 80min of every game.
12. Guiseppe du Toit
13. Spencer Jones
Spencer Jones has been a constant at centre for the Arrows all year. He has played 80 minutes in 6 of the Arrows’ 7 games. In those 7 games he has 1 try and a handful of filthy try assists. Guiseppe du Toit has missed 4 games due to his selection to Canada’s ARC squad. He has 1 try in 3 games so far this year. When du Toit was away at ARC, Silverthorn had Dan Moor shift from the wing to centre. Jamie Leveridge and Mitch Richardson are the Arrows’ two other centres. Leveridge has been alright in his 3 games coming off the bench, but Richardson hasn’t even dressed for a game yet. Ultimately, du Toit and Jones are clearly this team’s starting centres.
11. Dan Moor
14. Avery Oitomen
15. Theo Sauder
When picking the ideal Arrows Starting XV, the back 3 is easily the most difficult decision to make. Simply put the Toronto Arrows are absolutely loaded at winger and fullback. You have to chose 2 wingers out of Dan Moor, Kainoa Lloyd, Leandro Levias, Avery Oitomen, and John Sheridan. You also have to pick your fullback from Jack Evans, Aaron McLelland, Theo Sauder, and Shawn Windsor. You can also choose Gaston Mieres, who is a terrific option at either position. It’s a difficult call but, I’m going with Moor, Oitomen, and Sauder. Out of these 3 Moor was the closest to being relegated to the bench. However, Moor’s x-factors in this decision are his leadership qualities and his ability to play centre. As I mentioned above the Arrows are not deep at centre. As a result a player like Moor who is capable of shifting to centre is incredibly important to this team. There is no doubt in my mind that Moor should be in the matchday 23 because of that versatility. Ultimately, all 3 of his tries this year have come in games where he has played on the wing and I believe his skillset is better suited for that position. Additionally, he is a co-captain, and in rugby, captains do not start on the bench. Oitomen starting in the 14 jersey was not an easy call either. Great wingers like Levias, Lloyd, and Mieres are all returning to the team from the ARC.
In my opinion Oitomen has earned himself the right to a least get the chance to retain the 14 jersey. Oitomen trails only John Ryberg and Tristan Blewett for the league lead in tries and has been a driving force of the Arrows offense this year. Oitomen is incredibly difficult to defend against especially if he can receive the ball with pace or get into the open field. His speed makes him challenging to tackle in a 1-on-1 situation. If you don’t believe me, ask Kyle Rogers. Ultimately, Oitomen has earned the chance to retain his starting spot. However, he should be aware of the skilled players behind him that could jump ahead of him in the lineup if his play falters. Theo Sauder is another Canadian international that has yet to make his MLR debut. Sauder was a massive reason why Canada was able to win the Repechage tournament and qualify for the Rugby World Cup. Sauder is a lock to start at fullback on that RWC squad as well. Sauder has an excellent counter attacking ability and is able to control the territory of a game, which is something the Arrows have been struggling with this year. Sauder will play a big role for the Arrows as they begin to make a push for the playoffs in the 2nd half of the season.
16. Steven Ng
17. Tom Dolezel
18. Cole Keith
19. Tom Van Horne
20. Kolby Francis
21. Andrew Ferguson
22. Gaston Mieres
23. Shawn Windsor
For the reserves I went with the same formula that Silverthorn has been going with for the entire year. Ng, Dolezel, and Keith are the next best front rowers available. Ng and Dolezel have been in this role all season long. Keith has been with Canada during the ARC and has only played 3 games for the Arrows. Keith started at tighthead prop 3 times during the ARC. Unfortunately, Morgan Mitchell has been the Arrows best player all year long. If his passport said “Canada” instead of “New Zealand” he would have been starting at the ARC too. It’s a tough break for Keith, but that is the reality of the situation. Tom Van Horne and Kolby Francis have been great so far this season as well. Francis is in tight battle with Jack Nay for the starting eightman spot and it could be argued that he should start. Van Horne is simply the 3rd best lock on the team and unfortunately that means coming off the bench when the squad is at full strength. Ferguson is in a similar situation to Van Horne. As the ARC players return, you just get bumped down the depth chart. However, Ferguson has the ability to regain the 9 jersey is Mackenzie has a slow start to his MLR career.
Now we, return to another difficult decision. The remaining 2 reserve spots for the backs. It’s a difficult decision largely because their has to be a great player left off the matchday 23. Mieres and Windsor earn the final two spots in the lineup which unfortunately means Levias, Lloyd, Sheridan,Evans, and Leveridge are all left out of the lineup. Mieres’ versatility in being able to play both wing and fullback really gives him an edge here. Mieres was one of the Arrows’ best players against Rugby United New York. He was outstanding in defense and found plenty of holes on offense. Mieres almost picked up a try, but Francis’ pass was barely forward. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, I have to give Oitomen a chance to retain the 14 jersey, but that isn’t a slight on Mieres’ ability. The final spot I gave to Shawn WIndsor and it is basically for one reason. If any player on the Arrows is forced to leave the game, there is someone who can cover their position. Every forward spot has a reserve, wing and fullback have a reserve, Ferguson is the backup scrumhalf, and Moor is able to shift to centre if needed. However, their is a reason Sam Malcolm has played all 80 minutes of every game so far; the Arrows do not have another flyhalf. However, despite the fact that Windsor has been playing fullback all year, he is an experienced flyhalf as he played that position for the McMaster Marauders. He is the only other player that on the squad that plays flyhalf. If Malcolm ever goes down, the Arrows need a flyhalf, so Windsor makes my 23-man squad. Additionally, Windsor has been having a strong season and he would be a perfect replacement for Sauder allowing Mieres to be the reserve for the wings.
So to recap, my ideal, full-strength Toronto Arrows squad is:
So what do you think? Is this your ideal Toronto Arrows squad? Let me know what you think. You can find me on Twitter @Bressette4 and tell how much you like my full strength Arrows. Or you can feel free to call me a moron. It’s your choice. Either way follow along for more great Arrows coverage as we enter the 2nd half of the season.