By Fraser Caldwell
Two of the stars of McMaster’s last OUA championship team, Tyler Ardron and Mike Sheppard will both don the red and white of Canada at the Rugby World Cup, which begins Friday in Japan.
Ardron will serve as captain for the Canadians in his second World Cup appearance, while Sheppard will be making his World Cup debut after breaking into Canada’s lineup in 2018.
A three-year Marauder, who served as the team’s eight man and captain during its run to the 2010 OUA title, Ardron has become one of Canada’s preeminent back row forwards since his first cap for the national side in 2012. The Peterborough, Ont. native boasts 34 caps at the senior level, and saw action in two matches for Canada at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
He plays his club rugby for Hamilton, New Zealand’s Chiefs, who compete in the international competition Super Rugby, including teams in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Japan and Argentina. Ardron competes for Bay of Plenty in New Zealand’s national competition, the Mitre 10 Cup, during Super Rugby’s offseason.
For his part, Sheppard was a five-year Marauder, who helped McMaster to a pair of conference titles in 2008 and 2010, and was a multi-year OUA all-star. He made his first appearance for the Canadian senior team in 2018 and has earned eight caps as a versatile forward.
Sheppard captained the Toronto Arrows in 2019 as the team competed in its inaugural season in Major League Rugby, finishing third.
While the 2019 Rugby World Cup gets underway on Friday, September 20, when the host Japanese kickoff against Russia, Canada will wait until Thursday, September 26 to make its tournament debut.
The Canadians play their first match in pool play against Italy in the Japanese city of Fukuoka. Canada faces a tall task in escaping Pool B, which includes three-time champions New Zealand, two-time champions South Africa, Namibia and Italy.
The entirety of the 2019 Rugby World Cup will be broadcast in Canada by TSN.