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The first leg of the annual two-game World Cup series between Cal and the University of British Columbia kicks off Saturday 2 p.m. at Witter Field in Berkeley, Calif. The game will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks.
Doing color commentary will be Cal alum and former Eagle Colin Hawley. He called the first-ever rugby game to be aired on the Pac-12 Networks last year, and he’s slated to be on the broadcast for Saturday’s game, as well as the Cal-Utah game Feb. 28 and the Cal-St. Mary’s clash March 28.
“Amazing that they’re picking it up, wiring Witter with fiber optics and putting an investment toward rugby and broadcasting it,” said Hawley, who made his commentating debut in the Cal-UCLA game last year.
“I’ve never been so mentally exhausted after an event like that. I thought playing a rugby game was tough, but doing that’s equally as challenging. That was the first one they’ve done and they fell in love with it.”
This year’s World Cup marks the 95th year of the series, of which Cal has won eight of the last 10 outings. While the UBC matches are certainly circled on the Bears’ calendar every year, this is a rivalry, perhaps because of its international nature, that doesn’t garner as much attention as it should.
Cal is traditionally one of the best, if not the best, collegiate team in the United States. UBC belongs to the same category in Canada annually, and players from both programs regularly matriculate to their respective National Teams, like Hawley.
“Harry Jones (Canadian flyhalf and 7s player), it was regular that we met each other across the field in Cal-UBC, so it’s very much a pipeline for both National Teams bringing some guys from both of these squads into the National Team picture,” said Hawley.
“That is the rivalry for the USA right now, in terms of qualifying [for the Olympics] and beating our neighbors to the north and progressing as a rugby nation. We do measure ourselves against Canada, so that’s an absolute reality.”
UBC’s calling card is the same as the Canadian National Team’s – toughness.
“The landscape of collegiate rugby in this region has certainly improved. The level of play is amazing, but what I think stands UBC out among the rest is their propensity to be physical and their grind effort in the engine room,” said Hawley. “They’re just going to be the hardest guys you ever play against in the breakdown and the tackle.”