The 17th ranked Texas Longhorns play the 15th ranked Wisconsin Badgers tonight (Friday at 7pm in Austin, Texas as part of Wisconsin’s spring tour of Arkansas and Texas.
This game could be a preview of the D1-AA sweet 16 regional championship. Both teams are conference champions with 7-0 records. The teams met at 7s nationals in December where Wisconsin beat Texas 19-7.
ESPN affiliate The Longhorn Network will be recording tonight's match for future rebroadcast.
The Midwest Conference champion Wisconsin Badgers are on a spring break tour prepping for the USA Rugby D1-AA national championship – they will host the first round of the tournament at the Madison United Rugby facility in Cottage Grove Wisconsin on April 28. Texas will be competing in the same regional qualifier after winning the Southwest Rugby conference, potentially setting the table for a third meeting between the teams. Texas plays defending D1-AA champion Davenport in the first round. Wisconsin will play the Heart of America champion.
This game is also a preview of a possible matchup at the 2012 USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship in June. This will be the Longhorns second trip to the CRC. In 2011 the Longhorns advanced to the tournament quarterfinals before losing to Army 19-7. The Badgers are CRC newcomers invited on the strength of their performance in the inaugural Big 10 7s tournament. The Badgers defeated Penn State and Ohio State en route to that title and are certainly a contender.
It’s worth noting that Wisconsin tied Life University during USA Rugby’s national championships in December.
“When we started playing 7s last summer it was the first time playing 7s for a lot of guys,” said Wisconsin captain Ben Knight. “So we really had to preach the fundamentals. I think that helped everybody and I think that helped us in 15s, too. The idea that we all made sure we had the fundamentals down was good.”
There’s a further connection between the two teams:
Texas assistant coach Jacob Liberman played college rugby at Wisconsin for current Wisconsin head coach Skip Heffernan.
"Texas and Wisconsin are both up-and-coming programs benefiting from the explosion of high school rugby in our states," said Liberman. "I have a lot of respect for Skip and what he's done with the Badgers. But our loss to Wisconsin at 7s nationals left a bad taste in our mouth. We want to settle the score."