Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Toronto Arrows prop Morgan Mitchell walks out with teammates ahead of a game against the Seattle Seawolves in Seattle on Feb. 17, 2019.Mark Janzen/The Canadian Press

After eight straight games on the road, the Toronto Arrows are finally coming home.

The Arrows host New Orleans’s NOLA Gold, the top team in Major League Rugby (MLR), on Sunday as pro rugby union debuts in Toronto.

It’s the first of eight straight home games for Toronto, which went 4-4-0 on the road. Given the constant roster shuffling between the Canadian national team and the expansion Arrows during the Americas Rugby Championship, going .500 on the road is more than a decent start.

“We were quite happy,” Arrows co-founder Bill Webb said. “We think we’re well-positioned for the home stretch. Our goal was to be at least .500. We could easily have been slightly better than that. A couple of games were really close.”

Webb is proud of the Arrows team culture. Most of the team come from the Ontario Blues, so the new MLR side already had some history.

Chris Silverthorn, the Arrows’ director of rugby, has added some New Zealand and Uruguayan talent to the Canadian core.

“The guys have been incredibly engaged,” Webb said. “I had one player, who has played professionally and various parts of the world with the national team, tell me this is the best culture he has ever been around on a rugby team.”

“They’re playing for one another, they’re playing for their families,” he added. “The families have been incredibly enthusiastic and supportive because these guys are making a lot of sacrifices with travel and a busy training schedule.

“So I’m just really proud of what they’ve accomplished. And excited to see what we do in the back half of the season because I think we’re going to make a really strong push here.”

New Orleans beat visiting Toronto 36-31 in the season opener for both Jan. 26. The Arrows, trailing 24-7 at the half, rallied for 24 points in the second half but their spirited comeback fell just short.

New Orleans (6-2-0) is captained by hooker Eric Howard, who is supported by fellow Canadian internationals Kyle Baillie and Hubert Buydens.

Howard was part of the MLR team of the week along with Toronto’s Rob Brouwer, Mike Sheppard and Lucas Rumball. Sheppard also won player of the week honours for his work in Toronto’s 64-31 win at the Utah Warriors last week. The lock led the team in tackles and was one of nine different Arrows to score a try.

Saturday’s game will be played on artificial turf at York Alumni Stadium, which seats some 2,500.

“I think we’re going to have a pretty healthy, excited crowd on Sunday,” Webb said.

After four games at York, the Arrows will play their final four home games of the season at Lamport Stadium.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe