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Notre Dame's rugby program got a big boost recently when former Fighting Irish football player and USA rugby hopeful James Aldridge helped set up a 7s exhibition during the Notre Dame spring football game.
Like most top D1 college football teams, Notre Dame runs a spring training camp culminating in an intrasquad game - The Blue-Gold Game - that is a popular ticket in town - last year over 36,000 braved the rain to watch. Aldridge, who played football for the Irish and is now in Aspen working toward getting on the USA 7s team, visited South Bend and discussed the idea for a 7s exhibition at halftime.
The game is slated for April 21.
Asked if he had to do much of a sell job for his program, Notre Dame rugby coach Sean O'Leary said no.
"It took no persuasion on my part," said O'Leary. "James asked the administration, and he did it I think in part as a thank you for us working with him when he started to take up rugby. We're very excited."
Notre Dame will play one seven-minute period against the Gentlemen of Aspen, who are making the trip as a training camp of their own. Texas A&M will also be in town, as A&M and Notre Dame finish their D1-A seasons April 21, as well. After the Blue-Gold game, Aspen will later play a combined Irish/Aggies squad in 7s.
"It will be a busy weekend, and we'll be pretty sore afterward, but it;s a wonderful opportunity for us to show people what we're about," said O'Leary.
Notre Dame will be playing in the USA 7s CRC June 2-3 at PPL Park in Philadelphia. This will be part of their preparation under 7s coach David Fee.