Veteran prop Rob Brouwer hopes Arrows experience will lead to World Cup squad
|Toronto Star 01 Mar 2019 at 16:23|
“I’m just hoping that being able to play week-in, week-out, play some good-calibre rugby, I can put my hand up and keep improving on the things that I may need to improve on,” he said. “Just put together a string of good performances and build on that winning culture with the Arrows and hopefully I’ll get the attention of the selectors for the upcoming World Cup.”
The six-foot-three, 260-pounder became Canada’s oldest rugby debutante in February 2016 when he stepped on the field against Brazil at the age of 33 years 72 days.
“A big moment,” he recalled.
“Obviously you could look at my career and say it was a long time coming. But I never ever thought that I was overlooked at the time,” he added. “I just felt I should work harder.”
Brouwer, who has nine caps, is still very much on Canada coach Kingsley Jones’ radar.
“He’s on the list of players certainly in contention for the World Cup,” said Jones. “And he’s desperate to do that ... He’s always put his hand up. And he’s working hard. He sees his last opportunity for a big tournament.
“He’s great for the Arrows and leads by example. He’s a no-nonsense sort of guy. I’m really pleased with him.”
The Arrows are fourth Major League Rugby at 2-2-0. But they have eight players away with Canada at the Americas Rugby Championship as they visit Colorado’s Glendale Raptors on Saturday.
Toronto is coming off a 44-27 road win over Houston. The fifth-place Raptors (1-2-1) tied Utah 26-26 last time out.
Brouwer is a longtime member of the Ontario Blues, many of whom fill the Arrows roster.
“It has been great, to be honest,” he said of the Arrows’ first year in Major League Rugby. “Obviously the Arrows have some complications with weather and distance and stuff but we’re bringing it together, we’re being professional and the games are pretty high-quality. I was a bit surprised at the calibre of the first game in New Orleans. I was like ‘This is good rugby.’ All the games have been hard-fought since.”
Brouwer was suspended for the loss in Seattle, banned one game for a high tackle.
The veteran forward is currently on leave from teaching to focus on rugby. With a two-year-old son, one-year-old daughter and another child due in May, Brouwer credits his “very understanding wife” for making it all work.
“That’s the juggle,” he said.
Brouwer didn’t take up rugby until his last year of high school. While he liked sports, he spent a lot of time away from school working on a dairy farm.
He says the sport really grabbed hold of him at McMaster University in Hamilton.
“Because I started so late, I had a minimal understanding of the game when I played at high school. But then once I played at university and got in the team atmosphere and practised day-in and day-out and got the hang of it, that’s when I really started to enjoy the game and all the others aspects it brings to your life.”
After high school, he started playing for Lindsay RFC, which was also home to Canadian internationals Doug Wooldridge and Brett Beukeboom as well as Chris Silverthorn, the Arrows director of rugby. He went on to become president of the club, giving up the position some 18 months ago because of a crowded schedule.
Brouwer, a former back-rower and lock who moved to prop in 2015, has escaped injury other than a 2017 scrimmage when he broke several orbital bones in his face.
Thirteen of the 15 Arrows starters Saturday are Canadian. The other two — fly half Sam Malcolm and prop Moran Mitchell — are from New Zealand.
Six other members of the Arrows’ matchday 23 are Canadian internationals: Paul Ciulini (eight caps), Tom Dolezel (16), Andrew Ferguson (10), captain Dan Moor (14), Mike Sheppard (five) and Andrew Wilson (one).
Saturday’s game is the fifth of eight straight road games for the Arrows, Canada’s first pro rugby union team. Toronto will then play eight consecutive home matches between April 7 and June 2 to close out the regular season.