POSTED: May 27th 2014

Collegiate Rugby Championship capitalises on rugby fever

The Collegiate Rugby Championship Invitational excites a new generation of fans / United World Sports
The Collegiate Rugby Championship Invitational excites a new generation of fans / United World Sports

United World Sports President and CRC founder Jonathan First / United World Sports
United World Sports President and CRC founder Jonathan First / United World Sports

CHAD WISE / Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The fifth annual Collegiate Rugby Championship Invitational – 20 college teams playing 46 rugby sevens matches in one weekend – will be held at PPL Park in Philadelphia 30-31 May and 1 June.

Coupled with its broadcast on NBC and NBC Sports, the CRC is the highest-profile domestic rugby competition with some of the brand names in college sports, including the University of California, Ohio State University, Army, Notre Dame, and the University of Texas.

CRC Champion Cal is coming off of a Varsity Cup Championship loss to Brigham Young University, which was also broadcast live on NBC Sports from Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Both the CRC and Varsity Cup Championship are put on by United World Sports, a sports and entertainment company committed to raising the prominence of rugby in America.

“Rugby, including rugby sevens, is already a varsity sport at many major universities,” United World Sports President and CRC founder Jonathan First said. “The trend is certainly to make rugby a varsity sport at many more universities. The inclusion in the Olympics, our Collegiate Rugby Championship on national television has certainly been a catalyst for this. The beauty of it being a varsity sport is that it falls under the athletic departments and is included in the overall budget. There is also the scholarship factor, as well.”

United World Sports also hosts USA Sevens, one of the nine stops on the IRB HSBC Sevens World Series circuit. Qualifications for the 12 Rugby Sevens spots at the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games will be decided during the 2014-15 Series. Since the inclusion of Rugby Sevens on the Olympic Programme – marking the return of rugby at the Olympics, which was last played in 1924 – more and more colleges in the Untied States have added rugby programmes, like Life University. The Running Eagles, representing the Marietta, Ga., college of less than 3,000 students, were semifinalists in 2012 and runners-up in the 2013 CRC.

“The inclusion of rugby as an Olympic sport has been a game changer for collegiate rugby athletes,” First said. “They now have a path to the Olympics. This attraction value has been a major boon for attracting athletes to play rugby and is only increasing the level of performance on the pitch.”

Multiple players on the USA Eagles Sevens – the national rugby sevens team – have lit up the PPL Park pitch in the Collegiate Rugby Championship Invitational, including University of Arizona graduate Brett Thompson and Dartmouth College’s Madison Hughes. Hughes, who scored 98 points during the 2013-14 World Series, will hope to lead Dartmouth to its third CRC title.

Along with the 20 men’s teams, a Women’s Collegiate Rugby Championship and the National Small College Rugby Organisation’s Small College National 7s Championship will also be held in Philadelphia.

In addition, the inaugural international Super Sevens exhibition match between the New York Rhino Sevens and Ontario Blues at PPL Park will kick off Saturday. Super Sevens differs from rugby sevens in that the two teams of seven play 12-minute quarters as opposed to seven-minute halves.

“We do also see a need for finding additional ways to develop the game in the U.S. as we move toward an Olympic cycle for both 2016 and 2020,” First said. “We are going to hold this professional test match on Saturday between the New York Rhinos and the Ontario Blues with the idea of developing a professional league to seed consistent growth for the game on a global scale, much like MLS has done to grow soccer in the U.S.

“The interest for the content is very high, as is the enthusiasm. We will see how it goes but we know that this is going to be a very important weekend for the sport in North America as we bring together girls, boys, college players, these professionals to help crystallise what can be a very unique vision for the sport of rugby." 

Cal opens the Collegiate Rugby Championship Invitational Thursday, 30 May, against Temple. Friday’s Round 2 and Saturday’s Round 3, including the CRC Final, will be broadcast live on NBC and NBC Sports.

Keywords · United World Sports · Collegiate Rugby Championship · CRC · USA Sevens · Rugby Sevens · Rio 2016 ·

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