The Rise of North American Rugby Players, Ft Toronto's Andrew Quattrin
Two years ago, when Major League Rugby's inaugural season was commencing, Andrew Quattrin was in the process of finishing his university studies. Captaining his university, Wilfrid Laurier, he led his team to their first ever OUA medal before concluding his studies.
Some months later the hooker was signed by the Toronto Arrows to play his part in their debut season in MLR. Starting every game for the side, Quattrin was a pivotal cog in Toronto's run to the semi-finals.
They lost out that day to this weekend's opponents, Seattle. So far this year, the two sides' early season form couldn't be much different. Toronto have won two on the bounce, making them the leaders of the East and second overall in the league standings.
With Seattle eager to get their season up and running after disappointing defeats at the hands of Old Glory and San Diego, Quattrin believes that Toronto will be in for an exciting game at Starfire Stadium.
"I think they are going to come to the Starfire ready to fire on all cylinders," Quattrin said, "Last year, when we went there, that atmosphere was insane. The season was just starting, they had won a couple of games, but they are definitely hungrier now than they have ever been.
"It's a great atmosphere, a couple of Canadian boys on that team, great guys, it is going to be an awesome match and one that I have looked at on the calendar for some time. I love playing Seattle, I feel that they just bring the best out of their opponent. You can't have a day off."
Quattrin is the very start of a new breed of player in North America. Coming straight out of college rugby into a professional environment, the young hooker thrived on the field for the Arrows. Having also played for the Ontario Blues whilst still at college, Quattrin says that playing regular high-level rugby has helped him hugely.
"When I was about 20, a Canadian could only play about four or five high level games a year and that was just in the CRC (Canadian Rugby Championship). So now, not only for playing rugby to be a career, but to be able to play every weekend is unbelievable.
"You are playing against great players, the like of (Ma'a) Nonu, (Mathieu) Bastareaud and even the Beast (Tendai Mtawarira). Those guys are legends," Quattrin said, "To be coming up against guys like that, makes it a great competition. It has just sky-rocketed from the CRC, which was a competitive league for me at the time, so it has helped me to play every weekend."
Starting 15 regular games in 2019, Quattrin's efforts also gained him international recognition too. Called up to the Canada's Rugby World Cup squad last autumn, Quattrin was the second youngest member of Kingsley Jones squad in Japan, coming off the bench to play the All Blacks and then starting against eventual World Cup champions, South Africa.
"I was so fortunate to be given that opportunity, especially as somebody so recently capped," Quattrin said, "It was insane. To have that short exposure in MLR was very important, but that World Cup was just another level. It was eye-opening, I was very fortunate to be there and experience that, especially with such a group of great guys. I enjoyed every minute of it."
Now completely focussed on Toronto, Quattrin believes that although his side doesn't have the biggest squad, there is a good chance of the Arrows making another Championship run this offseason. Given their early season showing there is no reason not to believe the 23-year-old.
"Our bottom line is that we want to be back in those semis. I think we want to take care of some unfinished business from last year. A goal that we have set for ourselves is being in that MLR final and having the opportunity to take home that shield.
"We're a tightknit group of guys, we may not have the biggest squad, but defensively we just run at anything and offensively our backs have been spot on. I think for us, our end goal is to be in that MLR final."
Experiencing his second season of MLR, it is clear to Quattrin that the core values of rugby have not been lost. First and foremost, in his mind is that of respect, the hooker saying it is potentially the most important pillar of the sport.
"It is all about respect." Quattrin said, "I respect all those that have played before me in Canada, Ray Barkwill, Benoit Piffero, Eric Howard and then it is respecting your opponent. If you don't have respect for your opponent, if anything happens during a game, the bottom line is that after a game, you are not willing to shake his hand, look him in the eye, I don't think you should be playing the game.
"There is not one guy in MLR that has shown a lack of respect. Every guy is respectful, which is good, we need that. The league couldn't survive if everybody wasn't respecting each other and I haven't experienced one bad thig from another team."
Written by Joe Harvey
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