Ardron 100 per cent heading into Rugby World Cup
After disappointing showing at Pacific Nations Cup, Canada aims for automatic berth in 2023
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.
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.