Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tyler Ardron and Jeff Hassler developing into two of Canada's top players

Back rower Tyler Ardron and wing Jeff Hassler's
career paths have been almost parallel. Both look set
to play a big role in the next era of Canadian rugby.
After a sub par Rugby World Cup performance in 2007 and last few key players from the side of the 1990's and early 2000's such as Rod Snow, Mike James and Morgan Williams retiring, Canadian coach Kieran Crowley had a difficult job of overseeing a tough transitional period when he took over in 2008 and did a commendable job in getting the side into a decent outfit for the 2011 tournament despite having to take some hard results along the way.

Since that World Cup, Canada have been building on the foundations set by Crowley over the past few years with players who came into 2011 with little experience such as Phil Mackenzie, Jebb Sinclair, Jason Marshall all likely to be far more streetwise and experienced pros by the 2015 tournament. And although 2013 has been a bit of a bumpy up and down ride for Crowley's men, he must be pleased with the progress with two new youngsters Jeff Hassler and Tyler Ardron who are both developing into key players for Canada.

The pair's careers have both followed an curious identicality between them. They both played at the 2010 and 2011 Junior World Rugby Trophy for the Under 20 team alongside each other. In the latter tournament hosted in Georgia Ardron skippered the side and Hassler scored seven tries finishing as second leading try scorer.

(Video: A couple of clips of Ardron and Hassler impressing at the 2011 JRWT)

Following that tournament both were named in the wider fifty man squad for the World Cup but both missed the cut and ended up playing on the Sevens circuit together in 2012, and then made their full international debut together from the bench in Canada's first test of the year against the USA in Kingston and both caught the eye with subsequent performances of the leading Welsh region the Ospreys who signed them up.

Now in 2013 both have been getting regular game time for the Swansea based side, Ardron aged just 22 became the youngest ever player to captain his country in Tbilisi deputising for the injured Aaron Carpenter, whilst Hassler who with Ardron was one of the most impressive Canadians in the loss to the New Zealand Maori has become a first choice starter in a competitive wing position.

(Video: Hassler's strong running game against New Zealand Maori)

Ardron meanwhile suffered a disappointing first game as captain after facing up to the muscly Georgian flanker Vito Kolelishvili he got a couple of right hands and a mass brawl erupted with him being red carded a bit harshly. However he rebounded back the following week albeit in a loss to Romania, but personally Ardron led by example with his ever present work rate and ball carrying and was his side's best player in the game.

(Video: Ardron's ball carrying against Romania)

Ardron is similar in style to one of Canada's all time greats Al Charron, playing all of lock, blindside or number 8 positions and full of hard work. Hassler is a unique winger who can combine a hard straight running style but smart and skilful enough to find gaps. Both players are aged just 22 (they are only separated by 2 months) and have a large scope for further improvement with added experience and the longer they get exposed to high level professional rugby in Europe and look set to be big parts of Canada's future. 

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