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The pool pairings for the seventh-annual Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship June 4-5 at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia see some intriguing match-ups set for the early stages. This year the field is expanded by four, with 24 teams divided into six pools.
Three-time defending champion Cal finds itself in Pool A with respected challenger Arkansas State. The Red Wolves are making their second-straight appearance in the CRC, having been upset in the quarterfinals by Arizona last year. Together, these two programs combine for five 7s national championships, Arkansas State having won USA Rugby's tournament in 2012 and 2013, and Cal having swept the last three CRCs.
Also in Pool A are Tennessee and Maryland. The Vols are making their second appearance in the event, having competed in the inaugural competition in 2010. They qualified by finishing second in the Southeastern conference. Maryland punched its ticket similarly, finishing as runner-up in the Atlantic Coast tournament. This is the third CRC appearance for the Terps.
Pool B is headlined by Kutztown. The Golden Bears are making their fourth-consecutive appearance in the competition, having reached the quarterfinals each time and the finals twice, losing the title match to Cal in 2014 and 2015. Indiana, Boston College and Notre Dame will be the challengers in this group. The Hoosiers are triyng to make it back to the Cup Quarterfinals for the second year in a row, while the Eagles and Fighting Irish look to get into the top eight for the first time ever. Boston College enters as the Atlantic Coast champion.
The return of Army to the fold will see an age-old rivalry played out in Pool C, as the Black Knights are slated to square off with bitter foe Navy. The rivalry was played out in the first three CRCs, with the Midshipmen winning two of the bouts. Army has been on a hiatus from the tournament since 2012, but a second-place finish in 2011 indicates the Black Knights are a real threat. However, Arizona should probably be considered the favorite in this pool. The Wildcats will try to carry over momentum from a third-place finish last year. Three times they've reached the semifinals, and only once have they not finished in the top eight. Local favorite St. Joe's will have some tough sledding in this group.
Likewise, fellow Philly particpant Drexel may be up against it in Pool D, where the Dragons are paired with Life, Penn State and Virginia Tech. The Running Eagles are entering their fifth-consecutive year in the tournament, having reached the semifinals every time. Penn State has competed in every iteration, having reached the top eight three times and missed out three times. The Nittany Lions are on the back of a 15th-place performance last year. Whether they make it back to the Cup Quarterfinals or not will likely be determined by their pool meeting with the Hokies.
Pool E is filled with Michigan, South Carolina, UCLA and Wisconsin. The Gamecocks won the Southeastern title this spring, as they did in 2014 to make their first CRC appearance. Wisconsin won the Big Ten, qualifying them for a third trip to Philly. Michigan lost to the Badgers in the Big Ten title match. The Wolverines are looking for a third-straight trip to the top eight this year. But its the Bruins who are the veterans in this pool, making a fourth-consecutive CRC appearance. They faltered last year, finishing 10th, but finished third in their first two outings.
Battling for supremacy in Pool F will be Clemson, Dartmouth, Temple and Utah. The Big Green are two-time CRC champions, winning in 2011 and 2012. The Utes won the inaugural competition in 2010, but they haven't returned since finishing third in 2011. This go-around they qualified by winning the Las Vegas Invitational, beating out 23 other hungry teams in the process. The Tigers are making their second-straight appearance, having finished 19th last year. The hometown Owls have participated ever since the tournament moved to Philadelphia in 2011, and they haven't finished higher than 15th.
The bump in teams will put more emphasis on group play, as the six pool winners will advance to the quarterfinals, and only two second-place finishers will join them.
|Pool A||Pool B||Pool C|
|Arkansas State||Boston College||Arizona|
|Tennessee||Notre Dame||St. Joe's|
|Pool D||Pool E||Pool F|