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The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship is just under three weeks away, set for June 3-4 at Talen Energy Stadium in suburban Philadelphia. The pools are out, and they’re highlighted by rivalries and a renewed sense of competitiveness.
In Pool A, the East Coast Jesuit school squares off against the West Coast Christian Brothers college when Boston College faces St. Mary’s. In Pool B, old foes Life and Arkansas State will be the matchup to watch. Army and Navy will renew their rivalry in Pool C, with the Midshipmen trying to draw level with the Black Knights on the CRC ledger.
Pac-12 bragging rights will be on the line in Pool D when Arizona and UCLA meet. Traditional football powerhouses Cal, Penn State and Clemson pepper Pool E. And SEC foes South Carolina and Tennessee are found in Pool F.
With 24 teams across six pools, the winner of each will advance to the top eight, along with the top two second-place teams. Point differential is typically the determining factor for which second-place team advances to the quarterfinals.
There are no cake walks in this year’s competition, with conference champions and contenders abound. In Pool A, CRC debutant St. Mary’s will be the favorite and Temple the underdog, with Dartmouth and Boston College likely slugging it out for second. The Owls will be the team the others try to pad their point differential against.
In Pool B, Life and Arkansas State are the teams to beat, but Wisconsin has won plenty of CRC games in the past and Notre Dame is looking to show improvement. The Running Eagles and Red Wolves will be looking to score as many points as possible against the Badgers and Fighting Irish in case they don’t win what’s likely to be the pool decider against one another.
Pool C has four talented teams. The buzz coming out of St. Joe’s is that the Hawks might have their best CRC team ever, but they get no favors by being paired with Army and Navy, both of which have made deep runs in tournaments past, and group favorite Lindenwood. It’s going to be tough for the second-place team from this pool to muster a good enough point differential to reach the quarterfinals. Just ask St. Joe’s. The Hawks were paired in the same pool as Army and Navy last year and bested them to finish second, but missed out on the top eight by a single point.
Pool D features 2016 runner-up UCLA and semifinalist Arizona. Between the two of them, the Bruins and Wildcats combine for seven final four appearances. Then throw in American International College, a very talented side making its first appearance in the CRC, and you have an incredibly competitive pool. That’s before you mention Virginia Tech. The Hokies have never reached the top eight before, and it’s going to be an uphill battle to get there this year through this minefield.
Pool E isn’t any more forgiving. Four-time defending champ Cal is the monster in the closet. Penn State is under a new head coach, James Willocks, and he helped the Nittany Lions to an uncharacteristically competitive loss at Cal in the Varsity Cup playoffs earlier this spring. But that was 15-on-15 rugby. If Penn State can play as well in 7s, the upset window is wider. Clemson has not competed well in its first couple of CRCs, but the Tigers passed the eye test big time at the Las Vegas Invitational earlier this spring, finishing second amongst 28 teams. And then there’s Delaware, which returns after a three-year hiatus. The Blue Hens aren’t as good as they were when they finished fifth in 2012, but they’re good enough, as is everyone in this pool, to keep scores close enough to likely eliminate the second-place finisher from quarterfinal contention.
Pool F houses Kutztown, Indiana, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Vols and Gamecocks are underdogs here, Kutztown is the overwhelming favorite, and Indiana is a dark horse contender. The Hoosiers and Golden Bears met in pool play last year, with KU winning by just five points, but Indiana was upset by Boston College. The Hoosiers will have to play Kutztown close again, if not beat the Golden Bears, and not overlook the SEC teams in order to advance this year.
|Pool A||Pool B||Pool C|
|Boston College||Arkansas State||Army|
|St. Mary's||Notre Dame||Navy|
|Pool D||Pool E||Pool F|
|Virginia Tech||Penn State||Tennessee|