Philly Sports Live

College Rugby 7s Makes its Chester Return

If there has been on setting where the sport of rugby has thrived behind the scenes of the American sports landscape, it has been the college campus.  This weekend, that flourish will once again take center stage at PPL Park, with the 4th renewal of the USA College Rugby Championship Sevens tournament.

For the teams, it is the culmination of the season, a chance to be called national champions.   For the fans, it will be an opportunity to see not one, but five different competitions featuring almost 100 teams of all sorts over the course of the weekend.  The games are fast and furious; with halves lasting just seven minutes apiece, there is a new game about every twenty minutes.

The main staple of the CRC 7s is the men’s tournament, where Dartmouth, winners of the last two titles, will attempt to fend off nineteen other comers en route to a three-peat.  The Big Green won those titles under Alex Magleby, who has since left New Hampshire to coach the US 7’s National team.  But new head coach Gavin Hickie, will have the help of five returning players from last year’s cup winners in their quest.

Each of the twenty total teams in the men’s tournament will be divided into five pools of four teams each.  The teams play a round robin against their pool-mates on Saturday at PPL Park.  The winners of each pool, followed by the three best second-place finishers advance to the Cup championship bracket on Sunday.  The remaining twelve clubs will play for consolation honors, entering into either the Plate (9th-12th place), Bowl (13th-16th), or Shield (17th-20th) tournaments.  The Cup Championship final, unlike the other matches during the weekend, are ten minutes halves instead of seven.

Pool A: Navy, St. Joseph’s, UCLA, Villanova
Pool B: Arizona, Dartmouth, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
Pool C: California, Kutztown, Temple, Virginia Tech
Pool D: NC State, Northeastern, Notre Dame, Penn State
Pool E: Delaware, Florida, Life University (GA), Texas

There will be a distinctly local flavor to the tournament, with Temple, Penn, St. Joe’s, Kutztown, Penn State, Delaware, and last minute inclusion Villanova all in the fold.  Of those teams, Penn State and Delaware have made it to the quarterfinals, while Temple has a rather lusty 0-7-1 record in its two appearances. The other teams will make their debut at the CRC 7s, including the Wildcats replacing Army who pulled out of the tournament last week due to “internal issues” with the team.

Other teams to look out for: Arizona, who will be grouped with Dartmouth, the team that beat them in last year’s final; Cal, who were runners up in 2010 and third place last year; and Life University, a small school in Alpharetta, Georgia, who won four in a row in last year’s tournament and took home a head-turning fourth place finish.

Though the teams themselves will be looking glory as a group, the players will be looking to catch the eye of US Coach Magleby, as he scouts prospects for his team as he puts together his squad for the 2016 Olympics.  It’s possible that those in attendance may be seeing future Olympians in the fold, if not possible staples on the IRB World Rugby Sevens circuit.

NBC, who has broadcast the tournament in each of the last three years, will have coverage of both days of the tournament from PPL on NBC and NBC Sports, culminating in the final on NBC on Sunday.

But the big boys aren’t the only ones in the spotlight this weekend.  There will also be a women’s tournament, featuring eight teams Penn State, Temple, and Kutztown will be the local teams involved, while Boston University, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Texas, and one more team TBD complete the field.  The group phase and the semi-finals will take place at Drexel University’s Vidas Athletic Complex in West Philly on Friday and Saturday, with the final coming on Sunday at PPL Park.

Drexel will also play host to the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) Sevens tournament.  Of  the eight clubs that will be competing, Pittsburgh’s Grove City College, New England College, and Los Angeles’s Occidental University are all in NSCRO’s top ten rankings.  Roger Williams University (RI), Susquehanna University (PA), University of North Florida, Simpson College (IA), and Western New England University (MA) complete the field.  The semi-finals and finals of that tournament will be at PPL on Sunday afternoon.

In addition, a boys and girls high-school championship will be held at Penn, with the finals at PPL on Sunday.  And, if that weren’t enough, the first ever US Military Memorial Cup, featuring teams from Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the Coast Guard, will be contested at Penn and PPL over the weekend.

There will be a lot of rugby this weekend, that is for sure.  But, there will also be a lot of fun.  The Soccer Desk and Philly Sports Live will be there at PPL Park for continuing coverage, as well as a guide to following along with the action.