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Colleen McCloskey Photo

The Storied rivalry between Navy and Notre Dame continues this weekend in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. The Midshipmen have reached the semifinals in each of the prior three Varsity Cups and will be looking to continue that streak against a young Notre Dame side.

The Fighting Irish come into the match having played very little rugby. Outside of a tour out west that saw the Irish split with San Diego and Arizona, Notre Dame has only played local Bethel College this spring. With a young and inexperienced side, the Fighting Irish will have to find form quickly against a tough Navy squad.

“All across the board, we really respect the Navy guys. Not only for what they do on the rugby field but for what type of men they are. What choices they make to choose and go represent our country. We are under no false impression how hard these guys are and what toughness means to them. That being said, we expect to get every bit of that toughness out of them,” said Notre Dame coach David Fee.

Freshman fly half Luke Denehey leads the Notre Dame back line. The English born halfback has been getting better throughout the limited season and will need to be on point for Notre Dame to stay competitive. Along with Denehey, captain Pat McMahon spearheads the forward pack from the back of the pack. McMahon controls the line outs for the Irish and will be key to maintaining possession.

“We are a very young team. We are going to play our best to compete against a very tough, very disciplined Navy squad,” Fee added.

Navy comes into the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup after playing an independent spring schedule. The Midshipmen defeated fellow VC cup competitors Clemson, Dartmouth and Penn State this spring. With a close loss to Life, a tour of the United Kingdom, and a tight loss to rival Army, Navy comes into the competition with a 6-2-1 spring record.

The Midshipmen have a history of being a physical team and this squad is no different. The Navy pack is highlighted by a powerful front row, including captain Woody Dewing and hooker Dan McAfferty, Cade Pope at lock and flanker Kevin Kirchmer add to an already strong forward pack.

“Woody Dewing is the emotional leader of our team. He plays loose head for us and is a rock solid guy,” Navy coach Mike Flanagan said of his captain. “Dan has had just a great senior year. A terrific number two.”

Navy is looking forward to a tough matchup with a traditional rival.

“We are looking forward to playing Notre Dame. It is certainly a great rivalry, Navy-Notre Dame. It ranks there with some of the great national rivalries in all of sports. To be able to host Notre Dame here in Annapolis is a real big deal for us,” Flanagan concluded.