With the Bears coming to my part of the country, I'm excited to possibly provide some behind the scene look from today's game. For those who are not here, you can follow the game via a web stream (although it is subscription based ~$10).
Cal Rugby vs. Notre Dame (Varsity Cup Quarterfinals)
When: 10:30 AM PT
After a perfect 19-0 regular season record that saw them retain the World Cup (annual derby with University of British Columbia), win the inaugural PAC Rugby Conference, not to mention the 176-0 thrashing of Furd, the Bears are ready for the postseason again. In the brand new Varsity Cup, the Bears are the second seed in this 8 team tournament.
"It doesn't get any better than single-elimination national championship rugby," said Cal head coach Jack Clark.
Should the Bears beat Notre Dame today, they would host the semifinal match next week back in Berkeley, before a championship game that will take place in Provo, Utah.
At this weekend's Super Regionals, the Bears and Irish will renew a history that extends deep into their pasts. When Notre Dame came to California Memorial Stadium on April 8, 1967, for a match covered extensively by Sports Illustrated as the national championship, the Rugby Bears bested the Fighting Irish, 37-3.
"The University of Notre Dame is thrilled to be playing Cal this weekend to rekindle this great rivalry at the Varsity Cup," said Irish coach Sean O'Leary. "It's a great opportunity to be tested against the best."
The 2013 Irish enter the Super Regional with quality wins this spring over Big Ten finalist Ohio State and PAC Rugby's Arizona State. Notre Dame's personnel includes flanker Bobby Manfreda, who has also excelled as a boxer in the 194-pound division in South Bend; and Sean Peterson, a Sacramento native and graduate of Jesuit High School who has featured for the Irish at scrumhalf and flyhalf.
Coming on the heels of their 42-31 thriller over Saint Mary's on April 13, the Bears have the shortest amount of time to prepare for the postseason that they've encountered in many years. Cal has focused on rapid recovery from its contest with the Gaels and will be tasked to defeat the Irish following cross-country travel with some of its better players still on the mend.
Starters such as freshman flyhalf Russell Webb, sophomore Andrew Battaglia and inside center Jared Braun are unlikely to make the trip to the U.S. Naval Academy following as they recover from injuries, and other star players such as flanker Alec Gletzer may also be left in Berkeley.
While all players carry physical hardships into every competition by this point of the season, the Bears hope to advance past Notre Dame with some of their best on the shelf. The goal, as is always the case in a postseason elimination scenario, is to win and advance.
"Notre Dame will be a prepared, spirited opponent," said Clark. "The travel and the turnaround from last Saturday will be difficult on our boys. The situation has our full attention."
Should the Bears be able win the inaugural Varsity Cup, it would be national title number 27.