BERKELEY - California will resume its developing Rugby Sevens program when it travels to PPL Park outside of Philadelphia to compete in the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s starting Saturday, June 2, in pool play against Army, Navy and Notre Dame.
Elimination rounds in the 16-team tournament continue Sunday, June 3, with coverage both days on NBC TV and NBC Sport Network from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. PT.
"The CRC has become the signature weekend in college rugby," said head coach Jack Clark. "Our players really enjoy the event and we feel as a team fortunate to be included."
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.
This will be Cal's third trip to the CRC 7s, 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 1920 and '24 Games, and two recent alumni, Colin Hawley and Blaine Scully, are current members of the U.S. National Sevens team under contracts financed by the United States OIympic Committee.
All four teams in Pool D - the Golden Bears, Black Knights, Midshipmen and Fighting Irish - also participated in the 2010 and 2011 tournaments. Cal advanced to the final of the 2010 CRC 7s before losing in overtime to Utah in Columbus, Ohio, then traveled to Philadelphia in to defeat Ohio State, LSU and Penn State before falling to the Utes again in the quarterfinals.
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).
The rest of the field at the 2012 CRC 7s includes Mid-Atlantic local teams Penn State and Temple joining Wisconsin and Life in Pool A, returning 2011 CRC 7s champion Dartmouth grouped with regional squads Delaware and Maryland and Florida in Pool B, and Arizona, North Carolina State, Texas and Oklahoma in Pool C.
Among all the other teams in this year's CRC 7s, Cal has only played four of them before in Rugby Sevens, beating Arizona, Dartmouth and Notre Dame in 2010, and Penn State in 2011.
With plans to create a three- or four-tournament slate for Rugby Sevens in the fall portion their 2012-2013 schedule, the Bears will carry an 8-2
(.800) all-time record at the CRC 7s into the 2012 edition. Twenty-five student-athletes have been vying to make the squad in training sessions scheduled around their exams and graduation schedules.
A healthy percentage of the Rugby Bears' travel roster looks to be comprised of freshmen and sophomores, including first-year player Andrew Battaglia. Sophomore Jake Anderson is on a trajectory to make his first CRC 7s appearance after an end-of-year injury in Cal's 15s finale, while fellow second-year Paul Bosco had his 7s debut at last year's event.
Several of the Bears' upperclassmen would also be making their CRC debut at the 2012 event, including Brad Harrington and Ahmed Chehade. Anthony Lombardo would be at his second CRC 7s after missing selection for the
2011 tournament with injury, while Alex Aronson will attempt to return to the 2012 tournament after struggling with injury during day one last year.
The squad is likely to be anchored by Seamus Kelly and Danny Barrett, who together have made 15 of the 20 possible appearances between them in CRC 7s history. Barrett has been on the mend following surgical repair that ended his spring early and his fitness still has a ways to go, while Kelly, who emerged as Cal's captain in 2012, is the team's all-time top try-scorer in 7s.