Rugby Canada watches progress of Scotland's Toronto-born hooker with interest

·3 min read

Toronto-born Ewan Ashman will be rooting for Scotland when the Six Nations Rugby Championship kicks off this weekend.

The 20-year-old Ashman is one of four hookers in the Scottish squad.

Ashman is not in Scotland's matchday 23 for Saturday's match at Twickenham, which marks the 150th anniversary year of the first-ever international between the two rivals. But Canadian officials will be watching the Six Nations competition closely, knowing Ashman will be lost to them if capped by the Scots.

While proud of his Canadian roots, Ashman has always followed Scotland.

"I support Canada as well. But growing up, I'd go watch Scotland games. Obviously it's kind of home for me," he said in an interview.

Ashman, who plays his club rugby for England's Sale Sharks, has already represented Scotland at youth level but can switch international allegiance providing he does not win a cap.

Ashman was born in Canada to a Scottish father and English mother. His parents spent some eight years in Toronto thanks to his father's construction job. Ashman was four when the family returned to Britain.

"I'm Scottish and Canadian. I don't really mention the English part," he said with a laugh.

"I'm a proud Canadian," he added. "I try to go back there as much as possible."

He has toured Canada as a teenager with his school team, playing in British Columbia.

"I almost wanted to stay over there, before I did well with Sale here … It was unbelievable. I loved it," he said.

Ashman turned heads at the 2019 World Rugby U20 Championship, scoring seven tries to lead the tournament. He played in the Six Nations U20 Championship in both the 2019 and 2020 U20 Six Nations and has 11 tries in 15 appearances at youth level.

He's still a work in progress, having made just two appearances for the Sale first team.

Ashman got his senior opportunity with Scotland with fellow hookers Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally both injured.

"I was quite surprised," he said of the call-up.

"Obviously I'm just happy to be in the squad. Anything more than that's a bonus," he added. "I obviously want to get capped but at the same time I'm 20 years old. I'm learning from the older guys, they're really helpful."

Glasgow Warriors hooker George Turner, who has 12 caps, gets the start Saturday for seventh-ranked Scotland against No. 2 England with uncapped David Cherry of Edinburgh Rugby on the bench.

Glasgow hooker Grant Stewart, who has three caps, is also in the Scottish squad.

Ashman has been savouring his time in the Scottish camp in Edinburgh.

"It's been good. It's been hard. My body's aching," said the six-foot-one 245-pounder.

Ashman, who has a twin sister and older brother, grew up in Manchester and started playing rugby for local club Sandbach RUFC.

He moved to Sale at 17, playing for the Sharks' under-18 side. He made his Premiership debut last September, coming on as a substitute against Leicester Tigers.

At Sale, he is learning from forwards coach Dorian West, a former England hooker, and South African Akker van der Merwe, who is the team's No. 1 hooker.

"It's a good place to be for a young hooker," he said.

Ashman played centre and back-row forward growing up, only switching to hooker four years ago. He sees himself as a "modern hooker," mobile and ready to run with the ball.

Rugby, he said, "is all I've really wanted to do since I was five years old."

The Canadian men are currently ranked 23rd in the world.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press