May 28, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame rugby club will compete in the inaugural Collegiate Championship Invitational, a seven-a-side tournament, at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, over the weekend of June 4-6. The Irish will face Dartmouth at 7:10 p.m. ET on June 4, California and Harvard at Noon and 3:00 p.m. ET on June 5, and the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals on June 6 (times TBA), with live coverage on NBC, Universal Sports and Hulu.com.
“This tournament is always what I’ve wanted, what we needed,” said Notre Dame head coach Sean O’Leary. “We’re treating this quite similar to our preparations for the National team. We’re going to dress the part, look the part and behave the part.
The University officially reinstated the Notre Dame Rugby Football Club on May 18, 2007. As an official club, its stated goals are to field a rugby team representing the University of Notre Dame, to compete with other club teams while abiding by the rules of the University of Notre Dame, USA Rugby, and the International Rugby Board (IRB), and to promote the physical education, mental and social well-being, and sportsmanship of members of the club through participation in and the playing of this internationally recognized sport.
Following reinstatement, the club rose rapidly through the Midwest RFU ranks after the hiring of O’Leary. He transferred from Northeastern University and acted as coach of the USA U17 national team. In the fall of their first season the Irish finished 8-1-1 against Division II competition sparking a move up to Division I in the spring and an inclusion in the Eastern Division of the Midwestern Division I league. However, the Irish went without a victory in their first year in Division I, but went 7-7 in 2009 and made the finals of the Big 10 and the semi-finals of the Midwest tournaments.
This past fall, Notre Dame went 7-5, including victories over previous undefeated and Western League top-seed, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. The Irish reached the championship game of the Big Ten Plus One Tournament, but dropped a hard fought, 28-12, decision to fifth-ranked Penn State.
The Sevens format features seven-minute halves (with 10-minute halves in the final), three-man scrums and a wide-open style suited for the fleetest of feet, adding up to uncharted territory most of the 16 teams in the tournament. 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).
While the Sevens format ads an aura of uncertainty to the competition, California is slated to be the top seed in Notre Dame’s pool. Pool B is led by San Diego State and includes Tennessee, Florida and Indiana; Pool C features Army, Arizona, Navy and Arizona State; and Pool D consists of Utah, Penn State, Ohio State and Bowling Green.
“Rugby Sevens is an exciting, fast-paced sport that is growing in global popularity, participation and interest,” said NBC Sports executive vice president Jon Miller. “USA Sevens is the ideal partner for this event, which features the best collegiate rugby teams in the country.”
“The colleges are the future of rugby in the United States,” said USA Sevens’ CEO Jon Prusmack. “Teaming with NBC Sports takes Rugby Sevens to the next level.”
The event offers Notre Dame its first foray into the same format that will be employed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where, should the U.S. qualify; today’s players could be competing for their country.
The USA was the gold medalist at the last two Olympics that included rugby, 1920 in Antwerp and 1924 in Paris.
The top-two teams from each pool advance to the championship quarterfinals on Sunday, June 6, with the semis and finals following.
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— ND —