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The Mid-Atlantic RFU will play four qualifier tournaments for teams to earn points in, with the top eight playing in the territorial finals July 21 in Norfolk, Va.

Schuylkill River, 2011 national finalists, will not make the trip to Richmond, as they are slated to play in what amounts to their local tournament at Lehigh Valley. Still, with seven teams in the Premier Bracket, the Monk Vaughan 7s looks robust.

Undercutting the teams, though, is a new CIPP transfer rule within USA Rugby, that requires that any player transferring from one club to another must go through what amounts to a rugby background check. That players needs to establish that he is not under suspension and not in bad standing with his club or union. As reasonable as that sounds (and it’s partially influenced by a recent IRB communiqué saying that a player suspended by any competition remains suspended from all rugby), the new rule has created a pile of work for USA Rugby, especially Erik Geib in the membership office. Players who normally might expect to be able to transfer in a couple of days are now being told they have to wait weeks.

When the 7s season starts now, just a week or two after teams finished playing for their colleges in some cases, that stops the athletes from taking the field.

USA Rugby and the territories and leagues, and especially the referee societies, have to find a way to expedite these transfers.

The Teams:
NOVA. Northern Virginia pulled out of a serious summer 7s season in 2011, but are regrouping. Chris Yun and Jeff Soltess are talents from William & Mary, but we haven’t seen the type of out-of-region talent NOVA has been known to bring in … at least not yet. PJ Komongnan, Dan Weku and possibly Anwar Salaam are all looking to play for Prince Hill's team. They still have some time to put things together.

Pittsburgh Harlequins. Pittsburgh has been hurt by the transfer mess. Zachary Jessell is a big unit from Kutztown who is waiting to get the OK from USA Rugby. Nick Koon broke his collarbone and is out, but Zack Schell, Mike Wilks, and Ben Paul (another waiting on the CIPP mess to be cleaned up), are returning from last year. They also have veteran Joe Cyprowski who does very well to settle down the younger players. Pittsburgh played in Columbus at the Larrimer Cup in May and finished second to 1823.

PAC. The Potomac Athletic Club is switching quickly from 15s to 7s after being in the national DI playoffs. They have added a couple of college players, but the guys to watch at PAC are guys they already have, especially brothers Toshi and Seta Palamo. If those two, joined by Greg Suellentrop, are playing serious 7s, PAC is a serious contender.

Norfolk Blues. Head Coach Chris Porter says he wants to see his team create pressure and make their tackles, forcing turnovers, and then let their experience and athleticism take over. Sounds good. They aren’t executing perfect yet, but neither is any other team. This, for them, is just a start.

"We aren't quite there yet,” said Porter, “but give us a year or two and we will be back. Our main thing is to build this program around some core guys that have been playing together for a while. Richmond always does a great job of hosting and bringing in great competition. We want to get started early and send a message."

The big deal for Norfolk is where their Navy guys are. If the ship is in port, then they have depth. If not, then their numbers struggle.

 Maryland Exiles. The Exiles have to feel they’ve got a big chance to do something special. They have added a couple of talented young guys, such as South African Chester Mbekela and Pablo Martinez, and soccer convert Sean Gormley has a lot of pace and has enjoyed scoring tries in 15s.

Gluing all this together are veterans such as former Eagle Owen Lentz, and Iosia Luka (who cannot play this weekend).

Head Coach Chris Harvey hopes to add a few players from the University of Maryland as well, but the registration delays are a factor here, also. Right now Harvey says he has a good group of 7s players who are playing 15s. They will work their way to a better understanding of how to use all that space. This is the first step.

Baltimore-Chesapeake and Washington. We’ll wait on these teams. They haven’t lit the 7s scene on fire in recent seasons, but it’s very early days yet, and all clubs now have college players with a little 7s experience to recruit.


Diamond Jones