Cal rugby’s young team prepares for West Coast 7’s

Phillip Downey/File

Depth can sometimes be challenging. No team would ever complain having so many players on their hands, but the roster spots are limited. Last time out, Cal rugby split into two teams at the West Coast 7’s. Both teams swept their respective brackets and met in the finals, where they eventually tied 21-21. This weekend, Cal will tryout its freshman and sophomore squad in local stop of West Coast 7’s on Treasure Island.

“We have to be patient when we put young teams on the field for developmental purposes,” said head coach Jack Clark.

This will be the second straight year coach Clark will use the weekend for developmental purposes. Last year, Cal’s developmental team lost to UC Davis in the quarterfinal, which sent them to plate bracket. With two wins in the plate bracket, they ended the tournament with a 5-1 record.

Freshman scrumhalf/center Marcus Shankland and fullback/center Seth Purdey looked good in their debut as Bears in San Luis Obispo, but they need to keep up their good form to break into a team that doesn’t really have many holes.

“They are young now; mistakes are made, but they are going to be special one day, there is no doubt,” said Clark. “We have several guys in the program that project to be very good players.”

Treasure Island is a great chance for the young players in the team not only to show themselves but also to develop. As much as training is important, competing is crucial to develop into reliable players. These young Bears will compete in Pool-A of the 16-team tournament along with Arizona State, UC Davis and University of San Diego.

All Pool-A matches will be completed on Saturday. Cal will look to keep its historical dominance against its Pool-A opponents, having all-time records of 11-1, 6-1 and 2-0 against Arizona State, UC Davis and University of San Diego in 7s, respectively. This weekend, however, will be more than just results as good performance from the young squad is the primary objective of Cal.

“If there was ever a time to focus more on performance than results, it is probably this weekend,” Clark said.

Bears are trying to figure out the best way to minimize the effect of the loss of key players such as captain and All-American Russell Webb along with other All-Americans Anthony Salaber, Connor Sweet and Drew Gaffney. Of Cal’s six All-American selections, only fifth-year prop Kevin Sullivan and sophomore wing Sam Cusano have returned.

“It’s always a challenge, I mean, it’s not any harder this year than any other year,” Clark said. “It’s part of the process.”

Cal’s young roster will try to push for the roster spots this weekend as Bears look forward to maximize the advantage of having a deep roster at the end of the season.

Can Sariöz covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]