BOULDER, Colo. – There is a healthy slate of nonconference matches to keep an eye on this weekend in D1A Rugby. Most notable out of the group is the Canterbury D1A Top 20 pairings between Arizona and Colorado State, as well as a match between Cal Poly and San Diego State that will not count towards their conference records.
Cal Poly vs. San Diego State
This Top 20 matchup won’t count towards the teams’ California Conference record, as they are set to meet in a conference match April 11. Regardless, the result of this friendly should be a good indication as to who will finish second in California. Santa Clara has struggled out of the gates in 2015, and UC Santa Barbara still looks to be a few steps behind the rest of the conference.
Saint Mary’s, which finally has a bye week after five consecutive weeks of playing top-notch talent, is obviously the class of California, but the Mustangs and Aztecs have an opportunity to not only get better this week, but also build towards a 2015 D1A Rugby Playoff spot.
Arizona vs. Colorado State
See full preview here.
Oregon State vs. Washington
D1A Independent Oregon State won’t be playing a PAC Rugby Conference match this weekend, but still faces a formidable test against Washington. The two squads met in an abbreviated match three weeks back as part of the PAC North Tournament when the Huskies blanked the Beavers, 10-0. Washington is coming off of a quality win over Western Washington, proving it won’t be a pushover, while Oregon State could really use the win to build confidence heading into a brutal PAC Rugby Conference schedule.
Lindenwood vs. New Orleans RFC & Louisiana State
Teams playing their competitive 15s schedule in the spring are likely going to have to get creative to fit sevens training into their schedules. Lindenwood came up with a terrific format to do just that – schedule friendlies to provide 15s and sevens matches.
On Saturday, Lindenwood travels to New Orleans to play 2014 Division I Club Championship runner-up NOLA in both 15s and sevens. The following day, the Lions will once again compete in both codes, but against LSU. NOLA is an experienced group that has played a lot of rugby together. The fact that Lindenwood won’t see its players playing in both codes will leave several usual starters off its 15s roster.
The task at hand Sunday should be less challenging as the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference’s LSU was recently reinstated from a lengthy suspension. It is likely the Tigers have not had a ton of time to work together during the 2014-15 season.
Utah vs. UCLA
The Utes open their PAC Rugby Conference schedule with a road match against UCLA. Utah has had to lick its wounds in recent weeks following lopsided losses to Saint Mary’s and BYU, but the 160 minutes of experience has surely prepared Utah for its conference schedule. Most recently, Utah swept through the round robin-formatted PAC North Tournament.
New Mexico vs. New Mexico Tech
The Lobos are a young team that is winless in the West. New Mexico Tech doesn’t measure up with the teams of the West Conference, but the experience and match time for New Mexico is valuable, nonetheless. With four conference matches remaining this spring, the Lobos will be eager to pick off one of those teams before season’s end.
Minnesota vs. Minnesota-Duluth
This is not your typical DI vs. DII matchup. The Gophers were a sub-.500 team during the Big Ten University’s fall season, while Duluth won its second consecutive DII National Championship. With many teams who play their conference 15s schedule in the fall scrapping the code from the spring semester entirely, Minnesota deserves credit for allowing its team, especially the forward pack members who might not be quick-footed enough for sevens, the opportunity to improve its 15s program.
Credit aside, Duluth is a team full of experienced, hard-nosed rugby players led by Jeramy Katchuba – who was recently named one of four USA Rugby Coach of the Year selections. Needless to say, Duluth will be giving Minnesota all it can handle.