Toronto Arrows’ Mike Sheppard is the current vice-captain who plays both the lock and flanker position for the Arrows. He has been with the team even before the Arrows made the jump to MLR.
The Brampton native, born on December 20, 1988, has been a mainstay with the Canadian professional rugby union team. He has seen a lot as the domestic scene evolved, before moving to play for the Canadian men’s rugby union national team and the Toronto Arrows.
Mike Sheppard: the Toronto Arrows all-time appearance Leader
The Brampton native is the oldest of four children. Originally, Sheppard did not intend to play rugby, but instead American football at high school. Unfortunately for Sheppard, high school football was not initially open to him, that was until his third year in high school. This meant that Sheppard needed to play for other teams [as noted by Ian Colpitts, of the Brampton Guardian]: “We didn’t have a football team, but we had this volunteer (coach), a guy named Mike Shannon … and he wanted to start a rugby program,” Sheppard said.
“He told me to come on out and try it, said I might like it because I’m a big guy and I ended up loving it.”
After that, Sheppard was hooked on rugby, and the rest is history. He ended up playing with McMaster University and would excel in the backrow position.
Toronto Arrows talisman, Mike Sheppard
One cannot talk about the Toronto Arrows without talking about Sheppard’s time with the Ontario Arrows. Sheppard was captain of the then-called Ontario Arrows in the 2018 exhibition season, before they became an MLR team in 2019.
Sheppard has great skills as a flanker, and he is a very good player of ‘charged down’ tries due to his aggressive chasing attitude. Arrows host Mackenzie Krueger noted this on May 9, 2021. It is something he is known for. This is what he said to Krueger about that (source: Toronto Arrows): “It feels pretty good, you know the charged-down tries are always a challenge for any individual player, they do not really come around that often.”
This was seen with the LA Giltinis game last year and against Rugby United New York (now Rugby New York) in 2021.
One other technique Sheppard is known for, are his steals. For example, he was able to create a turnover in favour of his team against the Utah Warriors last year. He is the type of player who is able to excel at the ‘hard-nosed plays’ required by his team to get the win.
3️⃣8️⃣ – STEAL! Big jackal from Mike Sheppard deep in our own end, with the captain getting overtop of the ball to earn the turnover.#ArrowsUp | #UTAHvTOR
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) March 19, 2022
Lastly, he played a big role in the Arrows making the MLR playoffs in 2019. Sheppard got some key tries against the Seattle Seawolves and the Houston SaberCats on the road, and against the San Diego Legion at home that would help the Arrows make the playoffs.
Recently, Sheppard made his 50th and 51st appearances for the Arrows in Major League Rugby, which is a tremendous milestone for a loyal player with the Canadian professional rugby union franchise.
READ MORE: Player Profile: Sam Malcolm, the ever-relied-on Toronto Arrows pivot
Representative games for Rugby Canada
The current lock and flanker for the Arrows made his debut for his national team Canada on November 11, 2018, against Kenya. In that game, Canada won 65-19, with Sheppard scoring his very first International team try. Sheppard played a big role in Rugby Canada’s qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Sheppard made three appearances for Canada in that Rugby World Cup. Unfortunately, he got injured in the third game, and was out for the rest of the tournament.
READ MORE: Player profile – Lucas Rumball: Co-Captain of the Toronto Arrows
Mike Sheppard: What he means for the Toronto Arrows and Rugby Canada
Sheppard means a great deal to the club and national team. As a Canadian, he has seen many ups and downs with both the Arrows and Rugby Canada. This is what Sheppard said when the Arrows played their first home game in Toronto in 2022, which was also the first home game since 2019. They lost to Fire and Ice Cup rivals, Rugby ATL, but it did not stop Sheppard from saying this:
📈 𝗠𝗜𝗟𝗘𝗦𝗧𝗢𝗡𝗘 𝗧𝗥𝗔𝗖𝗞𝗘𝗥
Shep reaches the 5️⃣0️⃣-match mark, and three more Arrows hit appearance milestones of their ownhttps://t.co/ZEwealJ9s8
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) March 22, 2023
After the game against the Utah Warriors this past weekend, Sheppard has played the most games of any Arrows player with 51 appearances (source: Toronto Arrows).
They will play against a second-year MLR team, the Dallas Jackals, who are still looking to get their first-ever MLR win. The Arrows will travel to Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, Texas. That game will take place at 8:05 p.m. ET on April 1 and will be shown live on The Rugby Network and TSN+.
Photo Credit: Toronto Arrows RFC on May 18, 2022.