This Rugby World Cup has not been as successful as many Canadian Rugby Union fans hoped. However all is not lost, there are positives aplenty for Rugby Canada, future RWC campaigns and the Toronto Arrows.
The national team will still be welcomed home despite losing all its World Cup games as they did in 2015. The Maple Leafs were convincingly defeated by Italy, South Africa and New Zealand.
Yet there is plenty to be positive about. The squad is more experienced, with highly competitive teams competing domestically. Also the Major League Rugby competition – which is sure to be a boost for the sport. This will provide the building blocks for progress in Canadian Rugby.
2019 Rugby World Cup just a building block for Rugby Canada
Without a win on the field, however, this World Cup can only be seen as a small step for Canadian Rugby.
The American-based Major League Rugby has many players playing in the World Cup. Canada boast 14 representatives in the competition. Half of these players come from the Toronto Arrows. Other Canadian players can be seen in successful MLR sides including two-time defending champions the Seattle Seawolves.
However, taking it is important to note that Major League Rugby did not exist until last year. Furthermore, the Toronto Arrows did not play in Major League Rugby until earlier this year.
They have faced, and lost convincingly to teams with established professional rugby union teams like Italy, New Zealand and South Africa. Unfortunately, Typhoon Hagidis prevented them from salvaging a win from their final game against Namibia.
Toronto Arrows – Canadian rugby player development
The Toronto Arrows website confirms that they are planning to create a development system for 2020. The Arrows want to have the best academy of all the MLR teams in the league. They will aim to provide players with a clear pathway to professional rugby.
This is a significant boost for players in Ontario as they can dream of becoming professional rugby union players with the Arrows. The program should also provide opportunities at other rugby union teams across the world.
Furthermore, this year the Toronto Arrows provide 85% of Canadian roster. These two points give Canadians a chance to dream to play professionally at their home country.
There is also the hope of having three pro-Canadian rugby union teams by 2023 in France. Thus further providing opportunities for Rugby players across Canada.
Earning a @rugbyworldcup roster spot doesn’t happen without the time, dedication, and support offered by so many.
For this, we thank you.
— Toronto Arrows Rugby Club (@TorontoArrows) September 19, 2019
Growth of Professional Rugby Union in Canada
This advent of professional rugby in Canada also gives them the chance to get back into the top 15 of the World Rankings (TSN).
The two cities trying to get professional rugby union teams are Halifax and Vancouver. However there is some doubt where the ownership group for Vancouver will come from.
The Halifax ownership group interested in owning an MLR franchise is called Atlantic Sports and Entertainment. They own a professional soccer team called HFX Wanderers FC in the Canadian Premier League (CPL).
Although the HFX Wanderers FC franchise is sitting last in the CPL. According to Soccer Way they have the second-highest attendance in the league with 6,055 fans per game. This type of attendance would put them as number one in Major League Rugby as no team averages more than 4,000 people in MLR.
All the way up! pic.twitter.com/PZM6K72FTJ
— Toronto Wolfpack (@TOwolfpack) October 5, 2019
Overview of Canadian Men’s Rugby Union
Overall, the Rugby World Cup in 2019 may be the lowest point in the Canadian rugby union’s history. The good news is they are likely to go up from here.
The Toronto Arrows are investing heavily in the Canadian rugby union. Meanwhile, although the Vancouver group seems to have stalled, there is great hope that at least Halifax will be able to get an MLR team before the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Lastly, the Canadian Rugby Union is going to get a boost from rugby league. The Toronto Wolfpack gained promotion to Super League on October 5, the top rugby league in England. An Ottawa team is very likely to come into the English rugby league system in the near future.
This can only help to develop players and a fanbase for both codes of the sport.
Rugby league and rugby union are games similar enough that kids dreaming to play for the Toronto Wolfpack may very well play instead, for the Toronto Arrows. The sport can benefit from the profile of league, even if this year’s Rugby World Cup doesn’t quite make for the same headline story.
With a proud and long history, fans should stay loyal, continue to support the national team as they compete in the Americas Championship. Going forward Rugby Canada must look to invite more top tier teams to internal tours in the future. That will bring a smile back to face of players and fans.
“Main photo credit”