There have been three qualification tournaments for the inaugural USA Rugby collegiate 7s national championship so far this fall, and thus three teams have automatically qualified. But it’s probable none of the played tournaments will provide an at-large team to the event.
The South Independent Rugby Conference tournament Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla., however, very well could.
Arkansas State and Life, giants in the 15s realm, are eager to peddle their 7s wares in their first meaningful tournament.
“Obviously, our first focus is on 15s. However, watching the CRC and not being able to play in that kind of, we’re not that upset about it, but we’d still like to be on that national stage,” said Life’s Colton Cariaga, “and this kind of gives us an opportunity to see how we compare against some of the teams that were on TV playing and stuff.”
No CRC teams will be in action in Tallahassee, but it’s likely some will make the USA Rugby championship.
Life 7s All American Garrett Lambert is out of eligibility, but fellow Jr. Eagle Kyle Grossheider will boot up for the Running Eagles Saturday. Cariaga will certainly be a starter, and Cam Dolan, a future 7s and 15s Eagle, is back from the injury that kept him out of World Cup contention.
Arkansas State’s lineup is also chocked full of bonafide 7s talent. 15s All American Shaun Potgieter may well have been named to the 7s AA side if he didn’t suffer an injury playing with the Dallas Harlequins on the summer West circuit.
Flyhalf Zac Mizell and Paul Steyne Benade also honed their 7s skills with the Quins over the summer and will likely be on the starting side for the Red Wolves.
Unfortunately for ASU, though, Dylan Carrion is still injured. He sat most of last year with an ankle injury, and then injured his other ankle in his first game back. With him, the Red Wolves would be doubly dangerous.
The 15s match between Life and ASU in the spring was hotly contested. The two have a budding rivalry, and the Red Wolves have won the only game that counted so far. Though not as gratifying as a 15s win, a 7s win would be pleasing for the Running Eagles.
“We’d certainly enjoy that, definitely, but we know the game in 15s is what we really want,” said Cariaga, “but yes we’d really enjoy a victory over them in 7s. I think it’ll be just like the 15s match if we are fortunate enough to play them in 7s tournament, it’ll still be a close one.”
ASU and Life are in opposite pools, so if they’re going to meet it’ll be in either the semifinals or final. Who are the teams that could prevent an ASU vs. Life matchup?
Host Florida State will certainly be competitive, as they were in reaching the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Invitational Saturday in Greensboro, NC.
Middle Tennessee State, though young, could also be highly competitive.
“On our top 12 on our 7s team, we’ve got four freshmen, just graduated high school three months ago,” said MTSU coach Jody Hensley. “They’re good athletes and willing to learn, and we’ve got a lot to work on, but the future is pretty darn bright.”
The top two teams from each pool advance to the semifinal round, with the winner of Pool A playing the runner up of of Pool B, etc.
Middle Tennessee State