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The first 10 invites to the 2015 Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship have been accepted, with Arizona, Cal, Kutztown, Life, Dartmouth, Notre Dame, Penn State, Texas, Michigan and Virginia Tech all set to return to the marquee event of the college 7s calendar.
Two-time defending champ Cal and Dartmouth, which won back-to-back titles before Cal's run, are among a select group of teams to participate in every rendition of the CRC. Arizona, Notre Dame and Penn State are also locked in for their sixth-straight appearances in the event. Texas and Life are making their second-straight appearances, Kutztown and Virginia Tech their third consecutive, and Michigan its second.
Each of the 10 teams come from schools with widely known brands in collegiate athletics, except Kutztown and Life. However, the Golden Bears and Running Eagles have proved their worth by drawing fans and winning on the field.
“They’ve always been very eager and aggressive about getting into the tournament. They’ve served the tournament very well when it comes to fans, when it comes to being prepared,” said Penn Mutual CRC tournament director Donal Walsh.
“They’re always pretty serious about the tournament, and really these are two universities that recognize, 'This is great for our brand, great for our opportunity to show that we can compete at a national level.' They’re always very welcome back.”
Michigan returns after going 3-1 in its debut earlier this year. The Wolverines went undefeated in pool play, beating Navy, Ohio State and Texas before falling by just two scores to eventual runner-up Kutztown in the Cup Quarterfinals.
“They won all their games, they were unlucky in the quarterfinal on the Sunday,” said Walsh of Michigan. “They really got behind it, they brought fans, they created a lot of awareness, they reached out to their national database, and they’ve done a lot of work since then. They really sort of learned from the CRC experience last year, improving their overall business strategy as a program, and we thought that deserved being rewarded.”
Four of the remaining 10 CRC slots are expected to be won in qualifying tournaments. The Las Vegas Invitational will host one of those in February, and that tournament’s open to all American undergraduate college programs. The Atlantic Coast, Big Ten and Southeastern conference tournaments are also expected to be qualifiers, leaving six invitations left to be extended.