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The importance of the Toronto Arrows to Canadian rugby was reinforced Thursday with news that Rugby Canada is embedding two of its staff with the Major League Rugby side.

Alex Lee will serve as the Arrows’ head of performance while Richard Owen joins as head performance analyst.

Like Rob Howley, an Arrows consultant, Lee and Owen are Rugby Canada employees. Howley, a former Wales captain and British and Irish Lion, doubles as senior assistant coach with the Canadian men’s team.

“The Toronto Arrows provide the only professional high-performance environment in Canada and we greatly appreciate and value our partnership with them,” Rugby Canada CEO Nathan Bombrys said in a statement. “We are pleased that we can support our partners at the Arrows and deepen our close and long-standing relationship with them in this way.

“Alex, Richard and Rob bring outstanding rugby knowledge and experience that we believe will contribute to and enhance the success of the Arrows and the Canadian players in their system.”

Howley is entering his third season with the national men’s team.

The Arrows 2023 roster features 22 Canada-eligible players including Canada captain Lucas Rumball and nine others who have already won caps for the national team. Canada sevens alumnus Ciaran Breen signed with the Arrows in November. There is also Canadian content in the Arrows academy.

Lee arrives from the Ealing Trailfinders, a club in England’s second tier. He previously held performance, sports science, and strength and conditioning roles with England Rugby, Richmond Rugby and London Welsh. Lee has also served as a consultant for Rugby Canada at several HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Owen comes from the Welsh Rugby Union, where he analyzed the Welsh national women’s team as well as Welsh Premiership and school sides.

Both Lee and Owen will also support Canada’s national men’s, women’s and age-grade programs.

“We’re very excited to be working with Rugby Canada to appoint two coaches with proven track records at the top levels of the sport,” Arrows president Bill Webb said in a statement. “Alex and Richard will bring a wealth of top-tier professional and international experience with them to Canada, with Canada’s national teams and professional team both in a position to benefit significantly from their expertise.”

“We’re looking forward to working more closely with Rugby Canada to support rugby’s growth in our country, and to use our collective resources to continue developing our sport from the grassroots to professional levels.”