Wednesday, February 17, 2016

LVI CRC Qualifier Preview

By Brendan Triplett

The date has been set and the teams have been announced and placed in their respective pools.  So first things first here they are:

Pool A: AIC, Miami (OH), Ithaca 2, Colorado State
Pool B: Notre Dame College, James Madison, Colorado, UNLV
Pool C: Air Force, Delaware, Colgate, Citadel
Pool D: New England College, Lindenwood-Belleville, Ithaca 1, Dixie State
Pool E: Utah, Northeastern, Pitt, E4
Pool F: Life West, Saint Joe's, Harvard, Millersville

What can we expect from these pools?  Well for starters we can expect a better level of gameplay then that of years passed.  Work has been done to create more evenly measured pools and there is no one pool were a team is head and shoulders above every single other team in their pool.  What does this mean for us?  Well we can expect the pools to be more competitive.

Take the jump to read more.

Pool A has some strength in American International getting ahold of an even stronger game in the past year, and Miami of Ohio Univ. finding their legs as well but there is also a good team in Colorado State and they could come to the head at any time and give them a bit of trouble.
 Pool B is looking at Notre Dame (OH) and a much improving JMU to give them a run for their money.  Both of these teams could top the group.  Colorado and UNLV will be doing their best to punch a hole in these teams.

Pool C has Air Force, who are always competitive, but Delaware has been showing steady improvement and Citadel is doing well in DI-AA.  With increased experience in 7’s we should expect the Falcons to be stronger competition and both Colgate and Delaware will be seeing them as the team to beat.

Pool D is all broken up with Lindenwood probably feeling the best about their position against the rest of their pool and happiest in the pools overall.

Pool E will be a tough one with both Utah and Pitt duking it out and Northeastern trying to sneak in a win between them as they have been improving their game every year.  Pitt has been developing their game but Utah are tried and tested, winning the CRC back in 2010 and looking to regain their glory.

Pool F looks interesting, pitting DII champs Life West against DI-AA teams SJU and Millersville, tie that in with an always strong Harvard team and you have very good rugby.

What is particularly interesting with this year’s schedule is that although we can tell who the good teams are, the competition is such that surprises could, and will, happen.  Player development has been strong in these programs and there has been an emphasis on developing 7’s play throughout the season.  The Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) has become the equivalent of the Superbowl and schools are looking to enter this competition not only to make their schools more competitive but also to grow a game that has become the fastest growing sport in the country.  Schools that have been DII have been rocketing through the competition, Divisions have changed and smaller schools that once had minor club programs are now looking at athletes from 50-100 new players looking to play.  Even the schools themselves are getting on board with the growth of these programs and are beginning to sink more funding into them.  This is something that we have seen for several years with the larger competitors but is relatively new for DI-AA, DII and the other divisions.

The CRC has been growing in popularity as well and one only needs to see the growing attendance, better television slots, and newly extended sponsorship by Penn Mutual, United World Sports, and NBC Sports for the next few years to see that this is not an event that is going away any time soon.  7’s in particular have been getting bigger since the return to glory of the sport in the Olympics.  The CRC and events such as the Las Vegas Invitational are teeming with rugby scouts looking for the best talent to fill slots with local clubs, Olympic hopefuls, and even the newly created Pro rugby circuit starting this season.  Our National Eagles both 7’s and XV’s are chock-full of collegiate level players that are making the grade.

With an elevated game this will definitely not be a series to miss.  It kicks off the season for several programs and pits many schools against each other that otherwise might not see one another on their regular circuits or even during the CRC if they qualify.  Keep an eye out for key players to begin to emerge and some free-flowing, faced paced rugby, in the ruck and on the ball.  The name of the game will be passing and ball handling as these teams fight it out to get into the CRC’s, scheduled for June 4-5 at the Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL), in Philadelphia Pennsylvania.  Watch the games and get excited, the game is growing.  Ruck on!

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