Four D1A teams head west for the PAC 7s Championship

D1A Rugby: Four D1A teams head west for the PAC 7s Championship
Photo Credit: Ed Navarro (left) & JD Black (right)

BOULDER, Colo. – Four D1A Rugby teams will compete in one of the most highly-anticipated college sevens tournaments of the year this weekend at the PAC 7s Rugby Championship. Hosted by University of California, Berkeley, the Nov. 7-8 tournament will have two pools of five teams, each school representing one of the 12 teams in the NCAA’s PAC 12 Conference.

West Conference teams Colorado and Utah, as well as Independent Oregon State, will attempt to qualify for Sunday’s Cup Semifinals out of Pool A. Also bidding to advance out of the pool will be host Cal and fellow Bay Area side Stanford.

In Pool B, Arizona is the lone D1A program, but the Wildcats will still have to contend with archrival Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, and USC. Both Arizona State and UCLA have proven to be prominent sevens teams in recent years, and are likely to be Arizona’s greatest roadblocks to the Cup rounds.

“UCLA and Arizona State are quality sides,” said Arizona Head Coach Sean Duffy. “We’re excited to play against them again, and we see each other regularly. So, there is familiarity and it’s exciting to see what moves and countermoves the teams have for each other.”

While Arizona’s pool will be far from a walk in the park, the Wildcats do benefit from already competing in the difficult field at the Oct. 10 West Coast Sevens, where Arizona finished third.

“West Coast Sevens definitely was a good first effort for us,” Duffy explained. “But we’ve also made lots of progress since then that has seen a couple of players step up to make their way into the roster for this weekend.”

Pool A appears to be equally daunting. Cal enters the tournament the clear-cut favorite. Having won the previous three PAC 7s Championships after Colorado won the event’s inaugural tournament in 2011, the Golden Bears appear to once again possess a strong sevens side after Cup Final wins at West Coast Sevens and Autumn 7s earlier in the fall.

Cal isn’t the only team out of Pool A capable of making a run at the title. Fourth-ranked Utah is off to a terrific start in the West Conference, and coming off a run at the 2015 USA Rugby College 7s National Championships that led to a Cup Semifinal appearance.

After airing three 15s matches last spring, the PAC 12 Network is getting in on the sevens action. Beginning at 1 p.m. PT, the PAC 12 Network will lend its coverage of the tournament, capturing the Cup Semifinals and each of the four hardware finals, including the Cup Final, which will kick off at 3:05 p.m. PT.

The three-and-a-half hours of national broadcast coverage is amazing for the growth and exposure of college rugby, but looking good on camera is far from Arizona’s top priority.

“Our theme is, ‘Focus on the circle, not the circus,’” said Duffy. “We try to approach this as we do for any other game. We’ll do our best to keep guys focused on the circle of players, and how they can play for each other and see what happens.”

The team that hoists the Cup following Sunday’s knockout rounds will receive an invitation to the 2016 USA Rugby College 7s National Championships, which are set to be held May 27-29. For an overview of the PAC 7s Rugby Championship schedule, visit Calbears.com.