Cal rugby hosts their first PAC Rugby 7s Championship

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Abel Barrientes/Courtesy

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It is no secret that the Cal men’s rugby team is one of the university’s most prized athletic programs, with a storied past dating back all the way to the 1880s.

For the first time in school history, the Cal men’s rugby team will host a fall 7s tournament, as they will welcome 10 other Pac-12 teams to Witter Rugby Field for the PAC Rugby 7s championship on Saturday and Sunday. Each team will compete in four matches Saturday and two more Sunday. The two best teams will play for first in the championship game at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. In total, the schools will play 33 matches over the course of the weekend.

As a newly appointed Olympic sport set to debut in the 2016 games, 7s rugby is played in two seven-minute halves with only seven players on the field for each team, which differs from traditional 15s rugby played at the collegiate level. While the 7s style has been around for a number of years, it is a relatively new program at Cal, with the team currently in its fifth season.

“We hadn’t really played the game until recently, so we’ve been working pretty hard to find our bearings and become a good team at the 7s level,” said head coach Jack Clark.

Due to the shorter games, 7s rugby is almost always played in a tournament format. With less time also comes a smaller margin for error, forcing teams to focus on playing a meticulous game and scoring points.

According to Clark, it will be especially important for the Bears to maintain possession for as long as possible, in order to maximize their opportunities to score. And when it comes to putting up points, the quicker the offense moves, the better.

“The players who typically get selected for 7s rugby are more evasive, faster and the kind of guys who can exploit all that space,” Clark said. “So the bigger guys you need in 15s rugby don’t typically get selected for 7s.”

Having already played in two tournaments so far, one of which they won, the Bears have an overall record of 9-1 on the season and currently rank second in the country. The Bears seek to build on their success with another appearance in the final game this weekend.

Within their respective pool, Cal will face Stanford at 9 a.m., Oregon State at 10:30 a.m., Arizona at 12:20 p.m. and finally Arizona State at 3:20 p.m. on Saturday. Based on the results of the day, teams will be reseeded to set new matchups for Sunday.

“We have Arizona State in our pool, and they’re a very good team,” Clark said. “We played them a couple weekends ago and barely scraped by them. Arizona is also a capable team, they’ve had some really good teams in the past. You don’t want to take anyone lightly in 7s rugby because of just how dangerous it is. If you fall behind, you’re in trouble.”

Contact Vik Waghary at [email protected].