May 27, 2013
Cal Schedule: Fri. May 31 vs. Virginia Tech 5:20 p.m. ET/2:20 p.m. PT; Sat. June 1 vs. Kutztown 2:12 p.m. ET/11:12 a.m. PT, vs. Temple 5:58 p.m. ET/2:58 p.m. PT; Sun. June 2 TBD | TV: NBC and NBC Sports Network, Sunday TBD (channel finder) | Directions to PPL Park | CRC Homepage | Tickets | Register as a Fan, Player or Parent | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube
BERKELEY - California continues to build its Olympic 7s program May 31-June 2 at the Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia's PPL Park, where the Golden Bears will play three teams in pool play they've never before faced in 7s, hoping to advance to the championship round of the 20-team tournament on its final day.
Cal gets started Friday, May 31, at 5:20 p.m. ET/ 2:20 p.m. PT against Virginia Tech in Pool C, continuing Saturday, June 1, vs. Kutztown University at 2:12 p.m. ET/11:12 a.m. PT and Temple University at 5:58 p.m. ET/2:28 p.m. ET. The five pool winners and top-three second-place teams advance to the championship quarterfinals on Sunday, June 2, while the remaining teams will compete in consolation brackets.
The winner of the tournament receives the Pete Dawkins Trophy, named for the three-time Oxford Blue and Rhodes Scholar who also won the Heisman Trophy as a gridiron halfback for Army at West Point before a decorated military career that ended with his rank of Brigadier General.
The Bears will bring a roster with varying levels of experience into the 2013 CRC, with half the squad comprised of underclassmen. Several players are making a return trip to the event, and some helped Cal win the 2012-13 PAC Sevens Rugby Tournament in the fall, while others who will be making their first significant foray into 7s for the blue and gold. Together they will vie for the 2013 CRC title at the home of Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union in front of a sizeable crowd, among which will be over 100 at-risk youth from the Philadelphia area whose tickets were given as donations by Cal fans.
The talent on this Cal team is undeniable but the Rugby Bears will be tasked to transition quickly from a spring 15s mindset back to seven-a-side rugby and do so with some players they'd missed this spring and without others who didn't make it out of the 15s season healthy enough to play.
"It's difficult to ever feel 100 percent ready for the CRC with the transition from 15s to 7s so compacted," said head coach Jack Clark. "But the players have really worked diligently in their preparations and we are all looking forward to the competition."
Among those who will be missed is 7s All-American and 2012 CRC All-Tournament Team selection Paul Bosco, who went down with a season-ending injury in early March, followed two days later by CRC veteran winger Anthony Lombardo, who also suffered a season-ending injury.
Better news regards Ahmed Chehade, who is attempting a comeback from his February injury. Better too is the attempted comeback of 7s All-American Brad Harrington, another 2012 CRC All-Tournament Team selection who hasn't played in blue and gold since he went out with injury against Notre Dame at the Buckeye 7s in September. Harrington's return to the pitch could match him up against his brother David for the second time at the CRC if the Bears and Irish get bracketed together after pool play.
The Bears will be led once again by captain and three-time All-American Seamus Kelly, Cal's all-time 7s leader in tries and appearances who will be participating in his fourth CRC on the heels of his first career international appearance with the U.S. National Team May 25 against Canada.
Fellow three-time All-American Danny Barrett is also making his fourth trip to the CRC for his final competition as a collegian. Joining them is another 2012 7s All-Americans in Jake Anderson, a starter on the Bears' winning team in the final of the PAC Sevens who is second among Cal's active players in 7s tries scored and will be playing in his second CRC.
Four other Bears will be making their second appearance at the CRC, starting with Chehade, who made a strong impression in 2012, and continuing with Andre Coquillard. Sophomore Andrew Battaglia, No. 2 all-time in 7s appearances for Cal and a member of Canada's U-18 Sevens team in the 2011 Youth Commonwealth Games, is back, as is Josh Tucker, a starting winger in the 2013 Varsity Cup National Championship final.
After those players, Cal will depend on a group of frosh-sophs who lack any CRC experience but have already logged some valuable minutes for the Bears in their budding collegiate careers. Among them is freshman Russell Webb, a PAC Sevens starter who already holds Cal's all-time record for conversions in 7s; Nicklas Boyer, another PAC Sevens starter as a sophomore who played for the U.S. U-20s in 2012 and '13; Harry Adolphus, a freshman whose Cranleigh high school advanced to the quarterfinals of the National School Sevens in England in 2010-11; and freshman Anthony Salaber, the 2011-12 Rugby Magazine High School Player of the Year and MVP for 2012 national champion Dixon High School.
This will be Cal's fourth trip to the CRC, which features the same version of the game that returns as a medal sport to the 2016 Summer Olympics. Cal players helped the USA win gold at the 1920 and '24 Games, and two recent alumni, Colin Hawley and Blaine Scully, are current members of the U.S. National 7s Team under contracts financed by the United States Olympic Committee.
Cal advanced to the final of the inaugural CRC in 2010, losing in overtime to Utah in Columbus, Ohio. At the 2011 CRC in Philadelphia, the Bears defeated Ohio State, LSU and Penn State before falling to the Utes again in the quarterfinals. Last year at the CRC, Cal won the bronze medal with a 26-7 victory over Life to bounce back and finish their year with a win after narrowly dropping a 21-19 heartbreaker to Dartmouth, which went on to win its second straight CRC. Cal's all-time record at the CRC is 13-3.
The Sevens format features seven-minute halves (with 10-minute halves in the championship final), three-man scrums and a wide-open style on the same-sized pitch as the 15s code of the game. The rules are otherwise the same as 15s with two notable exceptions: all conversions are taken as drop kicks and the team that scores makes the ensuing kickoff to restart play (just as in gridiron football).
A national TV audience and the full embrace of Philadelphia as the host city for the third straight year have helped to cement the CRC as a premier rugby event in the United States. "It's the biggest stage there is in U.S. rugby, which creates a great and challenging test for all involved," coach Clark said.