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After Rugby World Cup, Cal Eyes New 7s Championship

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The world’s third most-watched sporting event is now underway in New Zealand. Odds are long -- very long -- for the USA Eagles in the Rugby World Cup.


Let’s face it. The Yanks are in a tough pool. Of course, at this level, EVERY pool is tough.


Still, the Americans showed some stiff resolve in their Cup opener against Ireland. Enough so to put worries into the minds of Brian O’Driscoll & Co. about their own prospects against other Pool C opponents Italy, Russia and Australia.


So, the Irish are fretting, the Italians are vulnerable and the Aussies ... well, the Aussies are the freakin' Aussies.


The Eagles’ match against the Russians today [the15th] is critical to US momentum because the Yanks are likely to run into a brick, um, wallaby on the 23rd when they go up against Australia.


Something closer to home for Cal rugby fans is USA Rugby's launch of a new collegiate 7s tournament. USA Rugby is the sport’s sanctioning organization -- the one that sponsors the15s play that’s made Cal famous (26 of USA Rugby’s 31 national championships have been won by the Golden Bears). USA Rugby also sponsors the Eagles national team now competing in the  World Cup.


Up ‘til now, USA Rugby hasn’t formally sanctioned 7s play. The new championship is the organization's nod to the 2016 Olympics which will feature seven-a-side rugby for the first time.


The new tournament shouldn't be confused with the 7s contest broadcast from Philadelphia over the summer. The winner of that series, Dartmouth College, took home bragging rights only, not an official standing because it played in a non-sanctioned event run by USASevens, a private for-profit organization not affiliated with USA Rugby.


This is a distinction without much of a difference to most Americans, of course, but it’s important to the rest of the rugby world.


The "selling point" of the new USA Rugby championship will be its timing. Qualifying play will take place after the fifteen-a-side season ends and concludes before spring play resumes. In essence, it means year 'round rugby in the U.S.


The new tourney will debut December 16-17 after rounds of regional qualifying play wrap up. The championship field will consist of 24 men's and 16 women's teams and is open to USA Rugby Division I and College Premier Division programs.


Winners of the qualifying tournaments will earn automatic berths in the championship. The remainder of the field will be named from an at-large pool by a Sevens Championship Selection Committee. Criteria for selection will include performance in the qualifying events.


Qualification events for the men's championship include these college post-season tournaments:


August 28: Big 10 7s; Madison, Wis.

Sept. 3-4: Midwest 7s; Bowling Green, Ohio

Sept. 17-18: Atlantic Coast 7s; Greensboro, N.C.

Sept. 24: SCRC 7s; Knoxville, TN.

Sept. 24: SIRC 7s; Tallahassee, Fla.

Oct. 15: Oklahoma 7s; Norman, Okla.

Oct. 16: Northwest Collegiate Rugby 7s Championships; Seattle, Wash.

Oct. 22: Pacific 7s; Stanford, Calif.

Oct. 22: Mountain 7s; Glendale, Colo.

Oct. 29: Delaware 7s; Newark, Del.

Oct. 29: California 7s; Venue to be determined

Nov. 5: East Coast Rugby Conference 7s; Amesbury, Mass.

Nov. 5-6: Ivy Rugby Conference 7s; Venue to be determined


So far, no broadcast deals have been inked by USA Rugby.