The club rugby teams will make their TV debut in June on NBC.
When the men’s basketball season ends in March each year, that usually spells the end for Temple sports appearing on national television, but this summer, that won’t be the case. The men’s and women’s club rugby teams will play in the 2011 USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship at PPL Park on June 3-5, which will be broadcast on NBC.
The championship will consist of a field of 16 men’s teams and eight women’s teams, where they will play round-robin games to set up a playoff tournament. Philadelphia was chosen as a location for a tournament by USA Rugby because of the number of collegiate and club rugby teams in the area. The tournament is there to generate interest in the sport as rugby sevens is set to become an Olympic sport in 2016.
“It’s really about getting rugby exposure as a sport on the national level,” men’s coach John Sciotto said. “They were looking for a Philadelphia brand name as far as universities go, and Temple was at the top of the list in the tri-state area. We’ve played at a high level for the past two seasons, which helped put us over the top.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams had national championship appearances last year and have followed up with successful regular season campaigns this year. Between the fall and spring seasons, the men’s team went 11-2, including a 6-0 spring season where the team had a scoring differential of 140-30, thanks to what Sciotto calls “blue collar rugby.”
“They hit hard, do the fundamentals well, and that’s kind of our mantra,” he said.
The women’s team went undefeated in the fall with a 5-0 record, scoring a combined 185 points and allowing only 17.
Both teams will play with smaller rosters as only seven players can be on the field in sevens compared to 15 in a regular match. The game itself is shorter with seven-minute halves and a one-minute halftime.
“It’s a heck of an opportunity for the guys that are fortunate enough to get on the field and represent Temple,” Sciotto said. “It’s a shame we have to limit it to seven guys on the field. A lot of guys have helped us get to this point.”
“Fitness has to be at an all-time high level. It’s a different style where you’re playing on the same size field with half the amount of guys, so there’s nowhere to hide,” he added. “There’s less tactics involved, and there’s more athleticism compared to 15, where there’s a little more strategy. You can kind of scheme around some of the weaknesses from your players, where in Sevens, you have to be an all-around good athlete and a good rugby player.”
There is also the possibility of facing teams that are Division I sports team and a dominant one. On the men’s side, California comes to Philadelphia with 25 national championship wins, and the Penn State women’s team has won six national champions.
“It’s amazing because for the most part, the players on the men’s and women’s teams haven’t had anything like this level of play,” women’s head coach Owen Jones said. “These are the top teams in rugby, and this is going to be shown nationally. A lot of our players are girls that played high school softball or lacrosse and have only competed against schools in their local area. This is something that’s beyond belief.”
The first series of matches will start on June 3 at 1 p.m. The TV broadcast schedule will start on June 4. Times are on the USA Sevens’ website.
“Temple rugby may be young, new and up-and-coming, but we have a lot of pride, we have a lot of talent, and we’re going to have a lot of fun,” Jones said.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.