New Canadian signing Tyler Ardron looking to make his mark at Ospreys
RUGBY isn't the normal route for a sportsman with a background in ice hockey and volleyball.
But the Ospreys' new Canadian signing Tyler Ardron is hoping to show he possesses the all-round skills to make his mark in the professional game.
Ardron becomes the latest Canuck to have graced Welsh domestic rugby, following the likes of Gareth Rees, Rod Snow, John Thiel, Jamie Cudmore, John Tait, Dan Baugh and ex-Osprey Chauncey O'Toole.
And the 22-year-old comes with an exciting pedigree.
Ardron, who hails from Ontario, has been capped ten times for his country, has starred on the IRB sevens circuit, and is regarded as one of the most talented young prospects to come out of Canadian rugby in recent years.
He arrived in sun-soaked Swansea last week and has quickly been made to feel welcome by his new team-mates that include compatriot Jeff Hassler — another of the Ospreys' summer imports.
But Ardron knows he needs to hit the ground running if he is to make a mark in the region's ultra-competitive back row this season.
"I have settled in really well, all the guys have been really good and the staff very accommodating in getting me set up," he said.
"I'm pretty excited.
"Yes, there's a lot of guys in the back-row here, but hopefully I can find my place. I bring a lot of work rate and like to get involved on the ball and making turnovers. I also have spent a lot of time on the sevens circuit and like a fast and open game, so I should fit in well."
So how did a player brought up on the ice with a hockey stick in hand end up in rugby union? "My high school coach said I should come out and give it a shot," he explained.
"Rugby isn't that big in Canada, but I got into the right group of people and made it my number one sport.
"As a youngster I played a lot of ice hockey and volleyball.
"My brother and sister both play volleyball for Team Ontario. They are younger and right on track for Canada.
"I'm the short one in the family!"
The 6ft 5in forward added: "In hockey you have to be picked up early, at about 15 years old and move away.
"I was between rugby and hockey and let it go until I was about 16. At that point I was getting a bit old and chose a different path with rugby."
Ardron began in the centre before finding his natural calling was in the back row.
He can play at six or eight and was at blindside for the Canucks' recent Pacific Nations campaign and tour match against Ireland, where he came up against standout Pro12 campaigners Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster) and Peter O'Mahoney (Munster).
"I could be playing anywhere, but primarily I see myself an 8 or 6. We will see how it goes and where I fit in," added Ardron.
"I talked to Gareth Rees, our manager at Rugby Canada, before coming over here and he has a lot of good words about living and playing in Wales.
"From what he said it sounded like the right fit for me."