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The count of teams set to compete at the 2015 Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship is now at 15, with the additions of UCLA, Navy, Army, St. Joe’s and Temple. The competition will again feature 20 teams, so there are still five spots yet to be claimed.
UCLA will be making its third-straight appearance in the event. The Bruins finished third in 2013 and bowed out in the semifinals in 2014. They are among the few to have beaten two-time defending champion Cal in 7s.
Navy has participated in every installment of the CRC, since its inception in 2010. The Midsphipmen were narrowly ousted by Life, 29-26, in the 2014 quarterfinals. They have made three-consecutive Championship Quarterfinal appearances.
Army is returning after a two-year hiatus. The Black Knights were suspended by their administration in 2013, and they were not invited to the CRC in 2014, their first semester back on campus post suspension. Army participated in each of the first three competitions, finishing second to Dartmouth in 2011.
“We have a strong association with the military, a strong association with the Academies. They’ve always come prepared and taken all our UWS events very seriously,” said CRC tournament director Donal Walsh.
“They’ve always put on a good performance. Their women’s team have always competed strong at the CRC. They bring in a lot of fans. They get a lot of support behind them in the community. We think having them involved, particularly in a city like Philly, where there’s a long tradition of Army-Navy in terms of football and other sports, it’s important to have both brands in.”
Since moving to Philadelphia, local teams have always been involved. Temple has played every year the tournament’s been hosted at PPL Park, St. Joe’s is coming back for a third year, and Villanova, Penn and Drexel have all been involved.
“From a Philly perspective it was commented and probably acknowledged that there’s probably too many teams from Philly,” said Walsh. “There’s such demand from a national level and national interest from the tournament and getting people involved, that having four teams from Philly might be a little bit excessive.”
The Hawks and Owls, which won the Bowl and Shield trophies last year, respectively, are being rewarded for their performances. Going forward, as long as the tournament is located in Philadelphia, other local teams will compete in an ancillary tournament played on two brand-new fields outside PPL Park for promotion the following year.
Four of the final five spots will be won at qualifiers. The Big Ten, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conference championships will see their winners qualify, and the Las Vegas Invitational is an automatic qualifier.
2015 CRC Teams: