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Saturday is a big one for college rugby, with third-ranked St. Mary's hosting No. 1 BYU in Moraga, Calif. and No. 2 Cal welcoming Air Force to Strawberry Canyon. Both matches will be viewable, with St. Mary's streaming the former online and Pac-12 Networks televising the latter.
These four programs combine for an overwhelming 36 national championships. Cal's won 26, but not claimed a 15s title since 2011. BYU owns five, including the last consolidated championship in 2012 and the first three iterations of the Varsity Cup. Air Force won it all in 2003, 1990 and 1989. And St. Mary's has claimed the D1A crown the last two years.
While Air Force hasn't been on the top shelf of college rugby in over a decade, the Zoomies are the only military academy side to ever beat a Cal team led by head coach Jack Clark. He's been the head man since 1984, and since then the Bears are 35-1 against Air Force, Army and Navy.
“We’re really looking forward to having Air Force on campus,” said head coach Jack Clark. “They’re an excellent team year in and year out. Typically they are a highly athletic side and well coached.”
Cal and Air Force haven't clahsed since 2011, but Saturday's other marquee game has become a regular fixture, as BYU and St. Mary's have met twice each of the last two seasons. The Gaels took one of those four matches, beating the Cougars 30-24 in Moraga. It was BYU's first loss to a collegiate team since Cal beat the Cougars in the national final in 2011. The Gaels' three losses to BYU in the last two years have been by just four, nine and 14 points, respectively.
"St. Mary's always brings their best on game day," said BYU head coach David Smyth. "Staying fully focused throughout the match combined with a balanced attack will be key to ending Saturday with a victory."
This is just the first leg of a two-game series between the reigning champions, as St. Mary's travels to Provo, Utah March 12 for the return contest.