More than 9,000 kilometres away from their South American home, the Toronto Arrows’ Uruguayan tandem of Leandro Leivas and Gaston Mieres are keen to make an impact in Major League Rugby.
Mieres, the 29-year-old from Punta del Este, has 66 international caps to his name. The speedy back, used primarily as a wing or fullback, has featured in four matches for the Arrows this season. He’s been on a tear as of late, scoring three tries in his past two games, including a brace in Toronto’s home opener on April 7. Mieres has also racked up seven lines breaks – good for fourth-most in the league, despite having played far fewer matches than many of his competitors.
Leivas has played in one match so far this season, coming on as a late substitute in Toronto’s road win over Houston. The 30-year-old from Montevideo has plenty of proven international experience, earning 73 caps for his country – the third-highest appearance total in Uruguayan history. Comfortable at both wing and centre, Leivas is a deadly finisher; his 24 tries for Uruguay puts him second on his nation’s all-time try-scoring list.
— U.R.U. (@RugbyUruguay) February 12, 2019
As the Toronto Arrows get set for their upcoming home match against Houston on Sunday, we had an opportunity to catch up with Uruguayan duo to check in on how they’re getting acclimatized to life in Canada and to get their initial thoughts on playing in North America’s top flight.
Q: While it’s mid-April and we’re still getting snow, we know that Toronto’s frigid winter will soon be coming to an end (even though it might not feel like it this past week!). How have you enjoyed your first winter in Canada?
A – GM: It was kind of tough the first couple of days. We just arrived and it was like – “whoa – a snowstorm everywhere” – so it was quite a big change. *laughs* (LL jumps in: Polar bears in the street! Moose everywhere, and all that! *laughs*) But it’s getting really good now, and we’re acclimatizing really well. We’re looking forward to the rest of the season.
A – LL: I think I’d seen snow only three times in my life before moving here, and never as much snow as these past two months. My first full day in Toronto, I woke up in the morning and everything was completely covered… I couldn’t believe there was snow everywhere. It was very strange for me! *laughs* So naturally I had to go out of the house to shovel snow for the first time. I can’t imagine doing it every day in the winter, I don’t know how you Canadians do it. *laughs*
Q: You are both among the most experienced international players in the Americas, even when you look at both hemispheres. You’ve had plenty of tough battles against Canada during your international careers, but now you’re suiting up as teammates with many of the same players you’ve faced internationally over the years. Has it been a smooth transition?
A – GM: That’s rugby. We’ve played against each other lots of times, and we all go hard and give our best for our national teams, but now we’re teammates. We just work with each other, and push each other as hard as we can. It’s been a great experience so far coming to Toronto. The Canadians are really nice people, and they made us feel welcome immediately after we joined when the Americans Rugby Championship finished up. It’s a cool thing being involved here.
A – LL: We used to play against one another, but now we have the chance to play together. That’s rugby. That’s the sport, and we are very happy. The guys are awesome. We were welcomed since we arrived here, and we feel like this is our home now. We are very happy, and we want to play hard now for the Arrows.
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) April 7, 2019
Q: You’re both just starting your careers in Major League Rugby, and have only featured in a handful of games, but what is your initial assessment of the league?
A – GM: We’ve just played a few games now, but I think it’s a really physical tournament. All teams are really physical, and the level of tempo of the games is really good. Fans get treated to a lot of close games, and a lot of try-scoring. It’s exciting, attacking rugby. We’re getting used to this new style of tournament, but I think it’s really good so far. It’s getting better and better each week, and will be even better as time goes on.
A – LL: Looking ahead, I think the whole team is excited to play the rest of the season at home. While here, we have an opportunity to be the best team we can be. This is a very important part of the season for us, and we are coming into it with so much energy. We’re looking to finish in the top four, and I hope we can achieve that, and to try to play the best we can.
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