The College Men’s 7s bracket at the Las Vegas Invitational has a bit of a different format from previous years.
The winner will not receive automatic qualification for the Collegiate Rugby Championship in June, but the field is still among the largest in the country for a college 7s event, there are still really quality teams representing 12 states, and the carrot of playing in front of thousands of fans inside Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday is still enticing.
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Also, for the first time ever, Canadian teams are competing. The University of Guelph (Ontario), University of Victoria (British Columbia), the University of Regina (Saskatchewan) and Humber College (Ontario) will represent Canada.
The University of Victoria, especially, has impressive 7s credentials. Canadian National Team stars Phil Mack, Sean Duke, Adam Kleeburger and Nathan Hirayama are all Vikings, but they’ll be playing inside the stadium while in the desert.
An intriguing U. Vic. player is Jordan Allan from Montgomery, Texas. After graduating high school, Allan moved to Wales and played with Cardiff RFC and Rumney RFC. Woodlands Exiles coach and former Life Super League player David Pope is high on Allan.
“What makes Jordan Allan special is his determination and dedication to succeed on and off the field,” said Pope. “Jordan has many of the same characteristics of [Canadian international] John Moonlight, very quiet young man that spends hours of time in the gym and field readying himself.”
Central Washington, Air Force, San Diego State, Texas and Lindenwood all played in the USA Rugby 7s National Championships in December, and Stony Brook and Oklahoma have competed at Nationals before. AIC and UCF have also won tournaments and knocked off some pretty good competition.
Central Washington should be considered the favorite in this bracket. The Wildcats won the inaugural CRC Qualifier in Sam Boyd Stadium in 2011. Shelby Williams, Max Narewski, Pat Blair and Tanner Barnes are all big-time contributors for CWU. Barnes will also be playing with the USA Falcons in the Men's Elite bracket, so his availability for CWU will be spotty.
Stony Brook is another team to keep an eye on. The Seawolves didn’t even attempt to qualify for Nationals in 2012, instead focusing on 15s in the fall. They did not qualify for the 15s postseason, so they’ve had their sights set on winning in Las Vegas for months. The players have been living and training together since December. Stony Brook’s most electric player is wing Michael St. Claire. He is healthy, which means he may well be the fastest player in the tournament.
San Diego State is also a highly competitive team. The Aztecs are squarely in the middle of their 15s season at the moment, but they’d love nothing more than catch the eye of CRC officials in Las Vegas. SDSU finished third at the original CRC in 2010, and there's one more slot available for the 2013 event.
Pat Clifton’s picks
Pool A – Central Florida
Pool B – Regina
Pool C – Lindenwood
Pool D – San Diego State
Pool E – Air Force
Pool F – Central Washington
The whole enchilada – Central Washington