LAS VEGAS – Plenty of D1A Rugby teams have made their way to Sin City for a little bit of fun and a lot of rugby. Arizona, San Diego State, and Wyoming will be competing in 15s, while eight D1A schools will be playing sevens as a part of the Las Vegas Invitational.
Everyone making the trip for San Diego State should see time on the pitch Feb. 13, as the Aztecs play both Dixie State and the NW Yetis. The level of competition won’t compare to the experience San Diego State gained against Life at last year’s LVI, but they’re quality minutes nonetheless for the young California Conference team.
On Saturday, Feb. 14, Arizona plays its second consecutive match against a West Conference foe in Wyoming. The Wildcats will desperately be searching for a rebound performance after losing last week to Colorado State at home. The Cowboys, a D1A Playoff team a season ago, would welcome an upset of their own over Arizona. Wyoming only managed one conference win in the fall portion of its league schedule, but is usually a tough out against its Rocky Mountain rivals – especially in Laramie, Wyo.
In recent years, LVI has shifted to more sevens competitions for youth, college, and club teams as compared to 15s – after all, the Invitational does correspond with the HSBC Seven Series stop in Las Vegas.
The headlining college event is the CRC Qualifier, which kicks off today, where Air Force, Buffalo, Kutztown, Lindenwood, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wheeling Jesuit will compete in four of the six pools.
Buffalo and Kutztown are in the same pool along with Columbia and Miami – a group that the Golden Bears look like an obvious favorite outlast. AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Niku Kruger and freshman sensation Nu’u Aiava are sure to get beyond the end line on a few occasions for Kutztown.
Air Force is likely to battle Dartmouth for the top spot in its pool that includes Georgetown and Pittsburgh. The Zoomies, who rank No. 6 in D1A Rugby, had a good sevens campaign last season, and the team’s typically superior fitness levels translates well to the code.
Lindenwood and Oklahoma find themselves in possibly the most difficult grouping of teams. Bowling Green, a D1AA power in 15s, and Notre Dame College, a team with explosive runners that reached the DII National Semifinals, will fight the Lions and Sooners for advancement into the Cup Quarterfinals.
A history of excellence in sevens as well as a recent shutout of UCLA makes Utah the team to beat in its pool that includes Wheeling Jesuit. The impressive work rate of Cardinals All-American Peter Malcolm should make the loose forward a dangerous sevens player. American International College, which fills out the pool along with Claremont, won’t be taken lightly. The East Coast Rugby Conference Champion has several dynamic line breakers at its disposal.
Playing in a less competitive field, the University of Texas is also spending the week playing sevens. On Day 1, the Longhorns will face Ithaca, Bermuda, and the University of Regina. The field is fairly wide open with the exception of the University of British Columbia, which has vastly more experience than the rest of the seven teams.