YORKTON - The Toronto Arrows have focused on a strong core of Canadian talent since joining MLR in 2019.
So it’s not surprising when the Arrows selected Owain Ruttan, 24, fifth overall in the 2022 Major League Rugby Collegiate Draft. The team more recently signed Ruttan for the 2023 Major League Rugby season.
It will be a case of coming home for Ruttan who hails from Ontario but had most recently played rugby on the west coast with the University of British Columbia rugby program.
“It was super exciting, and pretty cool going back close to my home. I grew up in Ontario,” Ruttan said of the Arrows’ selection.
Ruttan said as a youth he did play other sports, but with a Welsh grandfather who loved rugby pointing the way he was soon on the pitch where “right away I just loved it.”
Ruttan said while you are never sure what might happen in a draft, he was aware Toronto was interested after a call from the team.
“I was watching what they were doing over there in Toronto,” he said.
Ruttan said a chance to play in the MLR was something which was certainly on his personal wish list.
“The league has been around for a while. It is something that has peaked my interest,” he said, adding he recognizes the MLR is “all about developing players” as the only domestic pro league at its level of competition.
And competition is how a player gets better, noted Ruttan.
“The university programs are a great starting point for players including myself,” he said, then added there is another step to take with the MLR, where “you are going all day, every day” and “there’s always work to be done.”
So what work does Ruttan see in himself that he must get better at.
At present he said he is being something of a gym rat as he focuses “on getting really strong and putting some weight on,” in preparation for life on an MLR field.
As a forward, Ruttan said his game is pretty straight forward coming down to tackling a ball carrier in his zone, or taking the ball on offence knowing he’s likely to be tackled. It’s a rough and ready life in the rugby trenches.
“It’s the life of a forward,” he said.
In addition to being drafted by, and signing with, the Arrows, Ruttan has also recently had his first taste of wearing a Team Canada jersey.
Manitoba native Kyle Steeves and 2022 Toronto Arrows draft pick, Owain Ruttan, both earned their first cap for Canada after coming off the bench in the second half as Canada’s Men’s Rugby Team concluded their two-game European fall tour with a 43-37 loss to Namibia at the National Rugby Center Amsterdam in the Netherlands recently.
“It was a super cool opportunity,” offered Ruttan. “… It was fun – a little taste for me.”
It was certainly a memorable game.
“Down 36-34 with less than two minutes left in the match, Canada found themselves with a lineout just inside Namibia’s 22-metre line,” detailed a story at rugby.ca “Reserve hooker Lindsey Stevens hit his mark on the throw and after a few phases Canada forced Namibia to take a penalty at the breakdown, setting up Cooper Coats for a shot at goal with less than 60 seconds to play.
“Coats put the penalty kick through the posts from approximately 15-metres out, giving his Canadian side the one-point advantage at 37-36 with only time for one more play.
“On the ensuing kick-off, Canada was called for a knock on before taking two scrum infractions which resulted in a penalty for the opposition. Namibia opted for a lineout deep in Canadian territory rather than kicking a penalty which could have sealed the match. After struggling in the first half, the Namibian lineout came up clutch when they needed it most and after several phases along Canada’s try line, scrum half TC Kisting dove over the line, sealing a thrilling victory for his Namibian squad on the final play of the game. The conversion was successful as Namibia defeated Canada for the first time in history, 43-37.”
Ruttan said losses are never the best outcome but added “they (Nambia) are a good side.”
Ruttan said the brief experience with the national team was a good experience in terms of showing him what life with the Arrows will be like training “all day, every day.”
As for Team Canada Ruttan hopes he can be part of the team’s plans moving forward as it retools after failing to qualify for the most recent World Cup – the team’s first miss since the event started.
“I want to stay in that mix,” he said, adding that is where experienced gained with the Arrows can be a huge asset moving forward.