Ar­dron 100 per cent head­ing into Rugby World Cup

Af­ter dis­ap­point­ing show­ing at Pa­cific Na­tions Cup, Canada aims for au­to­matic berth in 2023

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - MIKE DAVIES Ex­am­iner Sports Di­rec­tor mike.davies @pe­ter­bor­ough­daily.com

Tyler Ar­dron is in a dif­fer­ent place as pre­pares for his sec­ond Rugby World Cup than he was in 2015.

The Lake­field na­tive and star of the Su­per Rugby League’s New Zealand-based Chiefs is healthy head­ing into one of Canada’s fi­nal warm-up games Satur­day in Hamil­ton.

It’s a rare home game for the 28-year-old as Canada faces Ire­land’s Le­in­ster Rugby in a friendly at Tim Hor­tons Field.

Canada’s fi­nal tune-up is Sept. 7 at B.C. Place against Team USA be­fore head­ing to Ja­pan for the Rugby World Cup. Canada, ranked 21st in the world, kicks off its tour­na­ment Sept. 26 against Italy. They are in an ex­tremely tough pool with No. 2 New Zealand, No. 4 South Africa, No. 13 Italy and No. 23 Namibia.

In 2015, Ar­dron was deal­ing with a knee in­jury head­ing into the Rugby World Cup which lim­ited his play­ing time and ef­fec­tive­ness. He had a bit of down time af­ter the Chiefs were elim­i­nated in quar­ter-fi­nals to heal the typ­i­cal bumps and bruises of a long sea­son.

“The body is hold­ing up pretty well and I’m able to man­age it,” he said. “I should be com­ing into the World Cup at 100 per cent.”

Canada got knocked around at the Pa­cific Na­tions Cup in Fiji ear­lier this month. They lost their opener to the Amer­i­cans 47-19, fell 38-13 to Fiji and 33-23 to Tonga.

“It started out pretty dis­ap­point­ing but it built and we got bet­ter as it went. That’s all we’re re­ally look­ing for over this sum­mer be­cause the World Cup is ob­vi­ously what we’re aim­ing for and where we want to play our best rugby,” he said.

Ar­dron says the ini­tial goal at RWC is to get two wins to se­cure a 2023 berth and avoid the qual­i­fi­ca­tion process. It took a last chance qual­i­fi­ca­tion tour­na­ment for Canada to gain en­try.

“That would save us a lot of has­sle like we’ve gone through these past cou­ple of years,” he said. “Be­ing re­al­is­tic, we just want to play as well as we can. We’ve got the guys to­gether for the long­est we’ve ever had over the four-year pe­riod in be­tween. Hope­fully we’ll do our­selves proud and play as well as we are able.”

Ar­dron is a shoe-in for Canada’s ros­ter. He cap­tained them in Fiji, but there are ros­ter spots and de­fined roles up for grabs in the fi­nal tune-up games.

“It’s pretty im­por­tant to get some com­bi­na­tions to­gether and see what works. I know the coaches still have some ques­tion marks with se­lec­tion as you would at this time of year. It will be a real good trial for us.”

Ar­dron signed a three-year ex­ten­sion with the Chiefs near the end of the sea­son.

“It was one of the bet­ter sea­sons for me. I played a ton,” he said.

“Chas­ing our tails the whole sec­ond half of the sea­son, af­ter the four losses we had at the be­gin­ning, meant I wasn’t able to get a rest. I had to play pretty much ev­ery minute of ev­ery game. It was pretty tax­ing but, at the same time, pretty ex­cit­ing to play all those games.”

He got home last week to visit fam­ily and take in a Peter­bor­ough Pa­gans game. He’ll get a cou­ple of more days next week be­fore leav­ing for more train­ing in B.C.

“It’s huge to be able to see the fam­ily. I wish I could see them more. I’ll take any chance I can get. The Chiefs have been re­ally good to me. They’re giv­ing me 3 1/2 months off af­ter the World Cup. I’ll have some time to de­com­press and get away from the game so I en­joy it when I come back,” he said.

CLIF­FORD SKARSTEDT EX­AM­INER FILE PHOTO

Team Canada men’s 15s rugby team cap­tain Tyler Ar­dron, who is from Lake­field, meets Peter­bor­ough Pa­gans U13 play­ers Aug. 15 at Ni­cholls Oval. Ar­dron is pre­par­ing for his sec­ond Rugby World Cup.

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