The 2023 Toronto Arrows MLR season will be about redemption. After a successful inaugural season where they made the playoffs and a positive start to 2020 before COVID-19 permanently stopped games from being played, the Arrows have struggled. In the 2021 Toronto Arrows season, they struggled again, with a big part of that ‘not playing any home games’ because of COVID-19.
Continuing that theme, the Major League Rugby (MLR) franchise then had a below-average 2022 MLR season, where they failed to make the MLR playoffs.
This new year must bring a change, which some are hoping a group of young players could help to fill.
2023 Toronto Arrows MLR Season: Playoffs in their sights
Not reaching the final knockout stages over the last two seasons is motivation enough. So the North American rugby union side will know that results must be shown over the new season. And many signings and development players are at the heart of that objective.
Player focus: young Toronto Arrows squad members to watch for
Canadian sevens fullback, Ciaran Breen, is a 21-year-old looking to make his name in the professional game. Just this past summer, he played in the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby World Cup Sevens for his country. This is what Breen said according to the Toronto Arrows:
“I’m really excited to join the Arrows and to play professionally in Canada,” said Breen. “From all the guys on the team that I’ve spoken with about signing here and gearing up for 2023, there’s a lot of confidence in the way this team is headed. I can’t wait to see where we can go.”
22-year-old scrumhalf, Cole Brown, will also look to continue to impress in the 2023 season. He scored his first-ever professional try for the Arrows last year against Rugby New York back on May 8, 2022. There are also their two MLR draft picks from last year, Owain Ruttan and Gabe Casey. They are both a bit older but will be looking to make a big impression in their rookie seasons this year.
After the Arrows season ended last year, co-founder Bill Webb said this about what the Arrows youth system means to him:
Notable players to watch out for
Sam Malcolm led the Arrows in points scored and successful goal-kicking (source: Major League Rugby). In fact, he finished fourth last year in points scored and successful goal-kicking overall in Major League Rugby. This is what Sam Malcolm said about returning to the Arrows for a fifth MLR season according to the Canadian Press:
“I’m stoked to be back with the Arrows for the 2023 season,” Malcolm said in a statement. “I hold a lot of value for the memories I’ve shared alongside this club and the people involved.
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) June 5, 2022
Lastly, there is Lucas Rumball, who is one of the defensive keys for the Arrows and will be relied upon again in 2023. He leads the franchise in tackles (520; 93.7% completion) and breakdown steals (44) (source: Toronto Arrows). Rumball is a pillar of the Arrows’ defence and will be relied upon once again this year.
Cole Keith has gone to the New England Free Jacks
The Arrows will be missing some key players heading into this season. The most notable one is Cole Keith. According to Major League Rugby, the prop was the only Arrows player last year to make the Second-All MLR Team (there were no Arrows players that made the First-All MLR Team).
The native from New Brunswick, Keith was with the team since 2019 and now makes his move to the New England Free Jacks in Boston. Keith started in 13 of the 16 games and also averaged 54 minutes per game (source: All Rugby).
Noel Reid one of Toronto Arrows’ 2023 notable signings.
𝗥𝗘𝗜𝗗 𝗜𝗦 𝗥𝗘𝗔𝗗𝗬 ✅
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) October 27, 2022
There are two players that the Toronto Arrows signed that will be highlighted. Noel Reid most recently played for the London Irish in the latter stages of the 2021-22 season (source: Toronto Arrows). The midfielder and fly-half. Reid, the 32-year-old, has a lot of experience playing with top leagues in the northern hemisphere, as he also played with the Leicester Tigers (2019-20) and the French Top 14 club, Agen (2020-22).
His most notable team though is Leinster Rugby (2011-19). In that span with Leinster, Reid had played in 120 games and scored 103 points. He also represented the Ireland national team as he played one game back in 2014.
Another big signing was Nic Benn. The Australian-born 21-year-old centre and wing player is eligible to play for Canada because of his mother as Benn lived in Canada for six years. This is what Benn said about signing with the Arrows according to the Toronto Arrows:
“Ever since Major League Rugby came into existence and the Arrows started playing in 2019, it’s been a goal of mine to play in and play for Canada,” said Benn. “I can’t wait to get back to Canada and to start my MLR career in Toronto.”
Welcome to Toronto, Nic! 🇨🇦
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) August 9, 2022
Benn notably had a standout season in the Shute Field with Manly Marlins in Australia, where he had six tries in 17 games. He also can play the wing position for the Arrows. This also could be a grab for Rugby Canada, as playing for the Arrows would likely give Rugby Canada better chances that Benn will represent them in the international game.
A combination of getting players like Benn to represent Canada along with the Arrows’ hard work on developing players like with their academies shows that there might be light at the end of the tunnel for Canada for the senior men’s side.
Full 2023 Toronto Arrows schedule revealed
The first six games for the Arrows will be on the road. Yet from February 17, until the last days of the calendar, the Toronto franchise must focus on each match at a time.
𝗨𝗣𝗗𝗔𝗧𝗘𝗗 𝗙𝗨𝗟𝗟 𝗦𝗖𝗛𝗘𝗗 📆
The countdown to Feb. 17 is on. 👊
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) January 6, 2023
This includes the Fire & Ice rivalry game against Rugby ATL at Silverbacks Park in Atlanta, Georgia at 7:00 p.m. ET on February 17, 2022. Atlanta has won the competition two times in a row while Toronto will look to win the competition for the first time. Both teams wrap up their season meetings on May 12 at 7:00 p.m. ET. This time the game will take place at York Lions Stadium in Toronto, Ontario.
They will also face the defending MLR champions, Rugby New York (nicknamed the Ironworkers), on February 26 at 3:00 p.m. ET at Memorial Field in Vernon, New York. Toronto will then open their first home game this season on April 8 against New York City at York Lions Stadium at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Lastly, Toronto will face the expansion side, the Chicago Hounds, on March 11 at 8:00 p.m. ET. In that game, the Arrows will travel to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois. That game and the road game against Old Glory DC on March 18 at 8:00 p.m. ET, will be broadcasted nationally on FS2 (source: Major League Rugby). As for games televised nationally on TSN and/or streamed on TSN2/TSN App, no detail on that has been given as of right now.
🗓️ 𝗣𝗥𝗘𝗦𝗘𝗔𝗦𝗢𝗡 𝗙𝗜𝗫𝗧𝗨𝗥𝗘𝗦
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) January 12, 2023
The Arrows will be playing two preseason games before their season kicks off on February 17. The first game will be against Rugby New York on January 27 at Legacy Park in Brighton, Michigan. The Toronto team will then travel to Springfield, Virginia to face Old Glory DC on February 10 at The St. James.
2023 Toronto Arrows MLR Season Expectations
The 2023 Toronto Arrows MLR season will be to at least try to improve on last season. However, Keith will not be around, who some can say was their best player last season. They did though add some key players to the team though, including Reid and Benn.
On the bright side though other players like Rumball, Tayler Adams, and Sam Malcolm, who are ‘big-time players’ for the club, will be there this year. New blood will be introduced to the longer-serving, established members of the roster. Speaking of the other franchises that make up the Western Division, they should be prepared for a reinvigorated Toronto group, ready for upcoming conference fixtures and away games.
There are six teams in each conference year. With the loss of Los Angeles and Austin, with the addition of teams such as Chicago, both divisions will now comprize six teams each. Yet – possibly as one familiar feel for the Arrows – the Eastern Division did not change at all the changes in terms of teams for MLR happened in the Western Division.
Note: at the time of publishing, the MLR playoff format is still to be decided.