One of two expansion sides in the 2019 Major League Rugby season, the Toronto Arrows are unique in that they are the first and only Canadian side in the league. In fact they are the first ever professional rugby union franchise from the Great White North and with that historic fact comes both responsibility and expectation. Having evolved from one of North America’s strongest amateur outfits, the Ontario Blues, there’s every reason to think this team will be just as successful in the professional arena.
The Arrows were not part of the inaugural MLR season but did play a series of seven exhibition fixtures in the spring. They drew with the Houston SaberCats at Constellation Field and then defeated the Utah Warriors at Rio Tinto Stadium before back-to-back wins over the Boston Mystics. Rugby United New York proved too strong at Iona College in March but the Arrows cruised to one-sided wins over the Glendale Raptors and New England FreeJacks in two fall fixtures.
Perhaps the change will be a relief to Mike Sheppard, who vaulted into World Cup contention with some impressive performances in his first ever senior international tour. The 30-year-old is a little short for a test lock at 6’4″ (1.93m) but makes up for it with his rugby IQ and ferocious commitment in the contact area. ‘Shep’ leads first by example and will be an inspirational figure in the pack.
The team has purposely avoided excessive expenditures on import players but those they have brought in are quality. Sam Malcolm broke into the Manawatu side after a stellar season with West Harbour in the Shute Shield. It wasn’t enough to get a Super Rugby deal and instead of putting around he instead packed his bags for Canada. The New Zealand Universities international is small in stature but a quick thinker who can step and kick off either foot.
Toronto has loads of talent out wide but Theo Sauder brings something a little different. Having starred as a winger with Canada’s u20 program, Sauder was a cup-winning flyhalf for the UBC Thunderbirds but has settled at fullback for Canada. He debuted in June and the 22-year-old’s electric attacking abilities quickly earned him the starting role for the World Cup Qualifiers in November. Wherever he plays for the Arrows, look for Sauder to make his fair share of highlight reels over the course of the season.
Via AmericasRugbyNews.com - Read more here