The Boys National High School Invitational kicks off Thursday in a three-day, three-game format where every team plays one full game a day.
The tournament is designed to be this way in order to avoid those short-game ties that lead to infuriating penalty-kick tiebreakers. The games will be 60 minutes, leaving time for overtime, if needed. But the length of games themselves will make ties less likely.
Teams will not have to name their bench for the opening rounds, in order to allow more players to be used (a coach will use different players in a blowout versus a close game).
In addition, there is a four-team JV tournament for some of the larger squads. The entire thing seems to be designed to get more players national championship experience, and to remove some of the issues coaches have had about the old USA Rugby tournament.
All of that makes for a more interesting event, and so, too, does the level of competition. In the single-school bracket, as many as six teams have an excellent shot at winning the entire championship. In the multi-school bracket, also, it’s wide open.
He’s how we see it (all rankings listed are latest RUGBYMag rankings).
#1 Gonzaga v. #13 Chapin
Gonzaga is playing excellent team rugby and have the best goalkicker in the competition.
#4 Penn v. #6 Charlotte
This is certainly a very tight game, but perhaps the more physical Penn squad, playing at their home fields, have the edge.
#3 Jesuit v. #5 Herriman
Herriman was ranked #11 when the brackets were made, but many suspected they might be a lot better than that. Jesuit has to be favored, but this is a tense first-round matchup. We figure the team that loses will finish 5th.
#2 Xavier v. #7 Dixon
Dixon’s a solid side but Xavier, battling as they have out of the debris of Superstorm Sandy, are on a mission.
#1 Cathedral v. #21 Marin
Marin has lost a few really close games against highly-ranked Californian opponents. Cathedral, despite losing their best player to injury, have been untouchable.
#22 Danville v. #5 San Diego Mustangs
The Mustangs have been going from strength to strength and boast several high school All Americans. They are nicely-placed to make the semis.
#3 Kansas City Jr. Blues v. #6 United
While United is ranked below Kansas City, they certainly could the Blues. We like KC, though, but it will be close.
#12 Westerville v. #2 Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs has been impressive in winning a very competitive Colorado league. They should be able to get by a physical Westerville team.
Crossover Tier 2
Brother Rice (MS28) v. Park Hill South (SS17)
Maryland Exiles (MS29) v. GR Catholic (Unranked)
Greenwich (SS8) v. La Salette (Unranked)
Brownsburg (Unranked) v. St. Thomas (SS28)
Brownsburg was ranked for a while and could produce an upset. Brother Rice v. Park Hill is a real pick ‘em game. Greenwich really should win this bracket, and win it well.