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Ben LeSage on the Toronto Arrows Ahead of Austin Encounter

June 10, 2021 - Major League Rugby (MLR) - Toronto Arrows News Release


Ben LeSage's time as a professional rugby player has certainly come with its challenges. Joining the Toronto Arrows after playing for Canada at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, the 25-year-old has yet to play a game for Toronto on home soil.

Having played entirely on the road last season before Covid-19 put an abrupt end to the 2020 Major League Rugby season, for 2021 LeSage was appointed a co-captain of the Arrows, taking up the mantel alongside fellow Canadian international, Lucas Rumball.

Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, LeSage began playing rugby for the Calgary Canucks, who he continued playing with until attending the University of British Columbia, combining his varsity rugby whilst also a part of the Prairie Wolf Pack senior men's provincial program.

Gaining his first international cap in 2016 against Romania, LeSage's first foray into professional rugby has come after the conclusion of his Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechatronics, Robotics and Automation Engineering.

SUPPORT FROM HOME

In February, Toronto announced that they would be relocating to Atlanta for the 2021 season and sharing facilities with Rugby ATL. This decision came as a result of the continuing effect of Covid-19 and the various complexities of crossing the border.

As a result, Toronto has had to be cheered on from afar. With one of the most ferocious supporting groups across the competition, LeSage says the support so far has been remarkable, it builds the excitement for when the team can finally play in Toronto again.

"It has been incredible, honestly," LeSage said. "The number of messages and well wishes that we have received has increased our understanding that we are not only playing for our team, we have got a lot of people at home backing us.

"It is the first Canadian foray back into rugby for a while. Our national team hasn't played a game since the World Cup, so this is the first bit of high-level rugby for people to get excited about for a long time and I think you are seeing that.

"I have never actually played a home game for Toronto because the season got cancelled. I have heard all these tales, I have met a number of the supporters, but it has all been virtual throughout these two years. I am excited at some point to get in front of those home fans and I think that first game back will be pretty incredible."

ALL TO PLAY FOR

As things stand, Toronto sits at the foot of the East Conference with 11 games played. Hosting San Diego Legion last weekend in Georgia, Chris Silverthorn's team fell 30-40 at the hands of the men from California, but despite the defeat still had two players present in the GEICO XV for week 12, Leandro Leivas and Joaquin Tuculet impressing most.

Photo by Paris Malone

The tale of the team's season has been one of close calls. This is shown by that Toronto's chances of a top two finish are still very much alive with five games left to play.

"The way we are looking at it is that the door isn't closed," LeSage said. "Mathematically we are still in it, and you never know. I think we have proven that we can play anyone in the East and, minus Austin, our final games of this season are against East Conference teams.

"We understand that we have put ourselves in a precarious position, further out than we'd want to be, but at this point we can concentrate on what we can control and that is by playing one game at a time."

NEXT UP

Much like Toronto, the Austin Gilgronis' still harbor hopes of playing postseason rugby this season. Currently third in the West Conference, the team will no doubt be buoyed by their recent 9-28 Texas Cup win over Houston SaberCats last weekend.

Likely to lead by example with his physical style of play, LeSage is under no illusion about the challenge in front of him. Likely to face off with Eagle, Bryce Campbell, it is set to be an intriguing midfield battle on Saturday evening, the 25-year-old hoping that a focus on enjoying themselves out on the field is the first step to getting a positive result.

"We have to enjoy our rugby," LeSage said. "We have probably been gripping the ball a bit too tight, to just throw it around. You see the sparks when we do hold onto it for a few phases and when we play some fun rugby.

"Austin is definitely a complete team, some of the additions they made to their roster means that they are up there as one of the best teams in the league right now and playing some good rugby.

"They are right in the midst of a playoff battle as well, so there is a lot on the line for both teams, so you can put a lot of pressure on yourself and play in a shell or try to play outside of that and enjoy your rugby.

"What we have seen from our team, when we do that, we play our best rugby when that is our focus, so I think that will be our main message over the next few days."

HOW TO WATCH

This weekend's matchup between the Toronto Arrows and Austin Gilgronis can be viewed on FOX Soccer Plus in the USA, TSN in Canada and The Rugby Network for fans watching globally.

Written by Joe Harvey

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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