TORONTO — Having played club rugby in Europe and his native Argentina, veteran fullback Joaquin Tuculet was intrigued by the opportunity presented by North America.
The Toronto Arrows had no shortage of countrymen to sell Tuculet on Canada.
While the Toronto franchise is predominantly Canadian, it has a South American flavour. Tuculet joins fellow Argentines Tomas de la Vega, Manuel Montero, Juan Cruz Gonzalez and Gaston Cortes and Uruguayans Leandro Leivas, Manuel Diana and Gaston Mieres.
"I spoke a lot with Tomy de la Vega," Tuculet, whose 56 caps for the Pumas include two trips to the Rugby World Cup, said Tuesday from Buenos Aires. "He told me a lot about the club, the city ... That's one of the reason I signed there."
Tuculet, who knows all the Argentine Arrows, also saw a chance to help grow the sport and Major League Rugby.
"I know they have other very good Canadian players too," Tuculet said of Toronto.
The Arrows were only to happy to welcome Tuculet, his wife and daughters aged six months and three years old to the fold.
"Joaquin came to us in somewhat unlikely fashion, but he is undoubtedly one of the top Pumas of the last decade, has experience at the highest levels of the international and pro game, can play almost every backline position and brings depth and class to our backline," Arrows COO and GM Mark Winokur said in a statement.
"He is making this move for all the right reasons and we are excited to have him here on a multi-year deal. He will fit in perfectly to our culture and he has expressed a keen desire to get out and work with all the great young talent in Ontario and help build the game."
The 31-year-old Tuculet spent the last five seasons with Super Rugby's Los Jaguares after club stints with Sale Sharks in England, Cardiff Blues in Wales and Grenoble and Bordeaux in France.
The Arrows also re-signed Canadians Jack McRogers and Pat Parfrey, increasing their squad to 32 players ahead of the 2021 Major League Rugby season.
After playing club rugby in Europe, Tuculet returned home for Los Jaguares’ inaugural campaign in 2016, and went on to make 44 appearances, with 41 starts and 10 tries, over the last five seasons.
He has scored 18 tries for Argentina since debuting in 2012 with four of those coming in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups. Tuculet made 22 appearances in the Rugby Championship, which features Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, between 2014 and 2019.
His most recent cap came in Argentina’s last test match, putting in a two-try performance in a 47-15 victory over the U.S. at the World Cup in Japan last October.
Tuculet, a native of La Plata, can also play centre and fly half.
Parfrey, a 28-year-old from St. John's, who is a PhD candidate in clinical epidemiology, is another versatile veteran who can play fullback and fly half. He has made six appearances over his two seasons for the Arrows with national team duties cutting into his playing time.
Internationally, Parfrey has won 32 caps for Canada including two starts at last year's World Cup.
“We thought Pat was Canada’s best player at the Rugby World Cup last year and we missed having him around this past year," Winokur said. "He can play a variety of positions well and is a total Canadian pro in the way he approaches the game. We are very happy to have him back.”
McRogers, 21, is a graduate of the Ontario Blues junior men’s provincial program and the McMaster Marauders. A former Canadian under-20 representative, he has made two appearances for the Arrows in two seasons.
"We see him as a future leader and another young local player to build our core around,” said Winokur.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2020
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press