Written by Pat Clifton    Thursday, 17 April 2014 11:14    PDF Print Write e-mail
Cliff Notes: The Four DI College Championships
Columns - Cliff Notes

The way I see it, there are four DI national championships. USA Rugby runs two of them, and the other two are startups. The debate over which one is the 'real' national championship is unwinnable, but that won't stop anyone from trying.

Life University is a DIA team. What that means remains up for debate. Ian Muir photo.So I've complied some raw data to compare these competitions, and we'll stack the Varsity Cup straight up to D1A and compare the ACRC to D1AA.

One of the criteria we look at is the number of conference champions a postseason competition includes. And not just the pure number of champions, but the number of champions versus how many it could have had.

For example, seven conferences are represented in the Varsity Cup. (Technically it's eight, but BYU isn't eligible to win the Utah CRC title, so I omit that one, and the two independent teams: Navy and Notre Dame.) Of the seven conferences that could have seen their champions compete in the VC, six did. The only conference represented in the VC that doesn't have its champion in the independent postseason is the West, as Air Force finished third.

In contrast, there are six conferences that could have seen their champions in the D1A postseason, but only three are in the postseason. The Big Ten saw its champion disqualified for eligibility violations, the Rugby East champ, Kutztown, opted to play 7s instead, and the Allied Champ, Oklahoma, spent its travel budget on the Varsity Cup instead.

There are 16 conferences whose champions could have played in the D1AA postseason, but only seven are. Conferences like the Southwest, Empire, Atlantic Coast and East Coast have seen their champs opt out.

In contrast, the ACRC got six of its possible seven conference champions, with Indiana - then still eligible - turning down its bid after winning the Big Ten.

Another figure we look at is the average conference finish of each participant team. D1AA had to reach pretty deep in the bag to find many of its participants, with three playoff teams missing their own conference playoffs. Georgia finished third in its division of the SCRC, and Brown and Princeton did the same in their divisions of the Ivy, so their best-possible overall conference finishes would have been 5th. We assign them that when figuring the average conference finish of D1AA playoff participants.

For BYU, Notre Dame and Navy in the VC and Army (which missed the Rugby East season due to suspension) in D1A, we just don't figure them into the average.

We also provide the RUGBYMag ranking of each team in each postseason.

Varsity Cup
Champs: 6/7
Avg Conf. Finish: 1.55th
Ranked Teams: 8
Avg. Rank: 9.375

Cal - PAC Champ
Dartmouth - Ivy Champ
Central Washington - NCRC Champ
Clemson - ACRL Champ
Texas - Southwest Champ
Oklahoma - Allied Champ
UCLA - PAC 2nd
Utah - PAC 3rd
Air Force - West 3rd
Notre Dame - Independent
Navy - Independent

Champs: 3/6
Avg. Conf. Finish: 2.45th
Ranked Teams: 9
Avg. Rank: 12.33

Life - Mid-South Champ
Colorado - West Champ
St. Mary's - California Champ
Colorado State - West 2nd
Santa Clara - California 2nd
Arkansas State - Mid-South 2nd
San Diego State - California 3rd
Lindenwood - Mid-South 3rd
Davenport - Mid-South 4th
Cal Poly - California 4th
Wyoming - West 4th
Army - NA

Champs: 7/16
Avg. Conf. Finish: 2.25th
Ranked teams: 4
Avg. Rank: 16.25

Bowling Green - MAC Champ
West Virginia - Keystone Champ
Iowa State - Heart of America Champ
Central Florida - South Independent Champ
South Carolina - Southeastern Champ
Stanford - Pacific Western Champ
Long Beach - Gold Coast Champ
Missouri - Heart of America 2nd
Middle Tennessee - South Independent 2nd
LSU - Southeastern 2nd Oregon - Northwest 2nd
U. San Diego - Gold Coast 2nd
Arizona - PAC 4th
Princeton - Ivy South 3rd
Georgia - Southeastern East 3rd
Brown - Ivy North 3rd

American Collegiate Rugby Championship
Champs: 6/7
Avg. Conf. Finish: 1.14
Ranked teams: 4
Avg. Rank: 18

Bowling Green - MAC Champ
Kutztown - Rugby East Champ
West Virginia - Keystone Champ
Stony Brook - Empire Champ
Middlebury - East Coast Champ
Clemson  - Atlantic Coast Champ
Penn State - Rugby East 2nd

Written by RUGBYMag Staff    Thursday, 17 April 2014 11:07    PDF Print Write e-mail
US Rugby Foundation Launches Graham Downes Scholarship
Off The Field - US Rugby Foundation News

San Diego, CA (April 3, 2014) - To honor past Natal and OMBAC great, and U.S. Eagle, the late Graham Downes, the United States Rugby Foundation, with generous support from many friends and colleagues, in particular from teammates of his from the team he founded, the Kwazulu Old Crocs, has set up the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship Fund.

The annual scholarship will be provided to a promising young U.S. rugby player and will include round trip airfare to Durban, South Africa, four weeks of professional instruction under some of the world's top coaches at the Sharks Academy in Durban, and accommodations.

Graham DownesInput from U.S. National Team and Age Grade coaches has been sought in this year's selection process and will continue to be weighed for future selections. After much deliberation, the list of qualified candidates for this year's Graham Downes Scholarship has been narrowed down to six. The 2014 Graham Downes Scholarship recipient will be named on May 1, 2014.

Graham "Basher" Downes died peacefully at Scripps Mercy Hospital on Sunday, April 21, 2013 after succumbing to injuries he received in an assault outside his home two days earlier.

Downes' first exposure to OMBAC Rugby was at the Las Vegas Tournament in December of 1984 and from the beginning, he fit right in. The native South African's gregarious personality and world class rugby skills made him an instant favorite to his teammates, while his good looks, warm smile and sculpted body made him an instant favorite with the ladies.

Having represented South African rugby provincial powerhouse, Natal, on 66 occasions, Downes brought rugby experience, a huge work ethic and winning attitude to an already competent OMBAC squad in 1985. He was one of the first pieces of the puzzle that OMBAC Rugby head coach Bing Dawson would assemble. With Downes the cornerstone of the forward pack that would be known as "The Pack from Hell," OMBAC would dominate rugby in the United States from 1988-1996 and his legacy helped keep OMBAC in the top echelon of rugby clubs in the U.S. into the mid-2000s.

Downes played on OMBAC's 1988, 1989 and 1991 National Championship winning teams and was an assistant coach on OMBAC's Championship teams in 1993, 1994 and 1996. After his playing and coaching days came to an end, Downes continued to provide financial support to OMBAC Rugby up until his death.

With his vast experience and knowledge, Downes could have been the boisterous leader of the OMBAC team when he arrived but he left the captaining to others, instead preferring to pick his spots to offer advice and encouragement. And when he gave it, all around him listened. It wasn't often he gave praise but if you happened to get a "You Beauty!" directed at you, you knew you did something well.
Downes always played the game fairly and that may be, as much as any reason, why he earned the respect of both his teammates and those who played against him. Upon his death, Basher received praise from both his teammates and opponents alike. One such opponent, Gerry McDonald, a former U.S. National Team prop who played for the Washington Rugby Club against OMBAC in the 1991 National Championship final at Robb Field, wrote this.

"It was very sad to find out the news about Basher. I have played and trained with him many times and would say he is the strongest and most technical prop I have played against. He played many games for Natal in South Africa and moved to play for OMBAC. He was playing in the finals with OMBAC against Washington, one game I will always remember. The name his team gave him was Basher and when you have played against him you can see and feel why he was given this name. Very sad news and another one of our prop brothers gone to heaven."

Downes used his same drive on the rugby field to succeed in business. Starting his own architecture firm with a credit card in 1994, Downes built Graham Downes Architecture into a very successful San Diego firm known for providing innovative solutions for retail, hospitality, entertainment and urban mixed-use projects. The firm's recent design notoriety has been its focus on boutique hotels, ultra-lounges, hip clubs and also urban infill housing projects.

While Basher is no longer with us, you can help keep his legacy alive by contributing to the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship Fund.

Written by RUGBYMag Staff    Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:51    PDF Print Write e-mail
Northeast Olympic 7s Holding Open Tryouts
Sevens - All-Stars

The Northeast Olympic Development Academies (ODA) will be holding open tryouts for all male players aged 18 and over with the Empire (New York) Academy on Saturday, May 10 at the Columbia University facility at Baker Field in New York.

Check-in is as 11.30am.

The New England Academy will then follow with their tryouts in Boston on Sunday, May 11 with an 11:30am check-in.

Players must be pre-registered and the combine will include both standardized athletic testing and live scrimmages. Led by Academy Director of Coaching Steve Lewis, coaches from both Boston and NYC will attend both combines to assess all athletes, with invitations to participate in the Academy program to follow shortly.

The mission of the Northeast Combined ODA, is to identify, develop and prepare regional rugby players to challenge for places in the USA Men’s National 7’s squad and the USA Olympic team for the Rio games in 2016. The Empire and New England ODA’s will compete as a combined Northeast team in the various elite tournaments to be held in Philadelphia (May), Houston (June), New York (July), Limerick, Twickenham and Glendale (August), and Las Vegas (February 2015).

Players accepted into the Academy will train and compete with their home club 2 nights per week and the Academy one night. Access to professional training and development will be provided with personalized seasonal conditioning and nutritional plans along with the highest level of staff and guest coaches.

For registration information, please use the following link;

Or contact Academy Director Sean Horan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Written by Alex Goff    Thursday, 17 April 2014 10:43    PDF Print Write e-mail
DI Playoff Picture Latest
Clubs - Men's DI Clubs

Nineteen teams remain in the hunt for the DI club championship - three in the Northeast, four in the Mid-Atlantic, one in the South, two each in the Midwest, Red River, and Southern California, one in the West, and four in Northern California.

New York Athletic Club has the Northeast wrapped up even though they lost to Old Blue this past weekend.

The big question remains whether it is Old Blue or Boston that will join them in the playoffs. The #2 team from the Northeast travels to Life University for a play-in.

"Defensively we were much better," said Old Blue Assistant Coach Stephen Lewis, who acknowledged that OBNY defense was a problem in the fall. Old Blue lost to Boston last fall, but won comfortably in a non-league game earlier this year. Bolstered by the play of Nate Auspurger at scrumhalf, Old Blue believes they are a stronger team now.

Meanwhile, the Mid-Atlantic regular season is done and the playoffs loom. Norfolk, Baltimore-Chesapeake, PAC, and Schuylkill River will play off April 26 and 27, with the winner making the national quarterfinals. The Norfolk Blues, who won the regular season standings, are strong favorites.

There are still games to play in the Midwest, but it's down to a two-horse race. Metropolis leads in the standings but it could all come down to the May 3 game between the two teams. The If Kansas City can stay within three points over the next two weeks, which looks likely, then it's all down to that game.

So the playoff scenario for the Pittsburgh national quarterfinals May 17-18 looks like this:

NYAC v. Old Blue, Boston, or Life (winner of Old Blue v Boston April 19 plays Life for the right to play NYAC).

Metropolis or Kansas City v Norfolk, Baltimore-Chesapeake, PAC, or Schuylkill River.

Metropolis leads the Midwest but it will be down to the May 3 game with KC. Norfolk is favored in the four-team MAC playoffs.

In the playoffs set for Dallas on May 17-18, there is also a distinct lack of clarity.

Provo has officially won the West conference, with the conference standings now including the two teams that pulled out - Glendale and Denver - to show a relatively full schedule. Provo and Utah Islanders split their two games, but Provo on their victory more impressively and win the league.

Because the West league is reduced, the winners will have to play in to get to the quarterfinals. Here's where it gets fun - Northern California originally declined to have their #2 team travel to the West champion for the play-in. So the play-in now involves the #2 from the Red River conference.

But Dallas is petitioning to have that game at home, not in Utah. Oddly, had Northern California had that option of hosting the game, they would have accepted it.

And ... if travel is forced on Provo, they would prefer to travelt California.

What is likely, however, is that the #2 team from Red River will be Dallas and they will play Provo for a spot in the quarterfinals. The #1 team from Red River will likely be New Orleans, given that the final match for New Orleans is against HARC, who just lost to Dallas 93-0.

In Southern California, Los Angeles and the San Diego Old Aztecs will play for the title. These two played this past weekend, with the Old Aztecs winning, but LA had already clinched 1st, so that result isn't necessarily a harbinger of the championship game.

In Northern California, the quarterfinals saw Santa Rosa and Fresno advance. The semis are set for April 26 with Santa Rosa against East Palo Alto Razorbacks, and the heavily-favored Sacramento Lions against Fresno.

So the Dallas bracket looks like this:
Los Angeles or San Diego Old Aztecs v Provo or (probably) Dallas
Sacramento, EPA, Fresno or Santa Rosa v Most likely New Orleans
(Sacramento is strongly favored in Northern California)

Written by Maikalina Madali and Joel Scott    Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:36    PDF Print Write e-mail
New Coach Joins Sacramento Staff
Clubs - Men's DI Clubs

The Sacramento Lions have just completed the 2014 spring season at 8-1, and have secured first place in Northern California's Division-1.  The Lions are now entering the post-season leading their league for the 2nd year in a row after the arrival of head coach Iferemie Tawake, but this year's team has improved significantly and attributes much of their success to the newest addition of the coaching squad.  

Naituivau, left, with Tawake, at right.At the start of the 2014 spring season, the Lions welcomed former Fijian National player Epeli Naituivau in January as an assistant coach and forwards specialist, which has proven to be a very advantageous addition to the team.

Naituivau, a former Fijian national team prop and member of the 1991 and 1999 Fijian World Cup teams, brings a wealth of experience with over 39 appearances for his country, and 22 international caps.  Naituivau served alongside Tawake on their national side for nearly a decade, and has served in many capacities with the Fijian Rugby Union from player to coach.

"Epeli has been pivotal in helping to enhance the boys' training, introducing new drills and refining their skills," said Lions Head Coach Iferemie Tawake. "All of his past experience playing and coaching in Fiji is helping to bring this team to the next level as well as assist in the advancement of rugby here in the States."

Naituivau is heralded throughout the Fiji islands as a player and coach of great prestige, and has received ample praise for his abilities and passion to develop and progress the sport of rugby for his country. His accolades and achievements have been chronicled  in the Fiji Times, ESPNScrum and BBC News.

As a member of the Fijian National team, Naituivau had the opportunity to compete in the 1991 and 1999 Rugby World Cups.  After serving two years with the Fijian army, he was called back for national team honors to play in the 1999 World Cup, which was the first Rugby World Cup to be held in rugby union's professional era.

Naituivau played his final game for Fiji in the 1999 Rugby World Cup Quarter-Final Play-offs, against England at Twickenham Stadium.  Where along side teammates Tawake and the legendary Waisale Serevi, the Fijian team pushed the highly favored England side, but lost 45-24.  In this game Fiji posted 3 tries to England's 4, but the boot of Johnny Wilkinson sealed the deal for the English as he notched 23 points off of seven penalty kicks and one conversion.  

A little unknown fact is that Naituivau became the oldest capped Fijian player ever when he played in this game at the age of 37 years and 151 days, up-ending his teammate and captain, Tawake, who was 37 years and 29 days.  This record has yet to be broken in Fiji.

In 1995, Naituivau decided to take on coaching in order to share his knowledge of rugby techniques. He was able to coach international level teams such as the Fiji Warriors, the Fiji Barbarians and the Fijian National Team.

To date, he has been certified for the International Rugby Board's coaching Level 1 and Level 2 in Fiji; and is currently on track to achieve Level 3.

Naituivau also had a position as Academy Coach within the High Performance Unit at Fiji Rugby from 2006-2012. His responsibilities included recruitment to the academy as well as referrals for the national team, and help develop players who were chosen for professional teams overseas.

"Naituivau has developed a range of skills in terms of coaching the game acquired from his playing days, and more so, from his professional development gained at Fiji Rugby, which surely puts him in good stead for venturing into coaching outside Fiji," said William Kong, Manager of Sports, Science and Medicine at the Fiji Rugby Union.

Under Naituivau's tutelage on the national team coaching staff, he helped lead the Flying Fijians to the Rugby World Cup in 2007. Naituivau's coaching contributed to Fiji achieving a trip to the cup quarter-finals for only the second time in their history after defeating Wales in the quarter final play-offs, 38-34, in what was described as one of the best matches of all time by Australian legend Michael Lynagh.  Despite a subsequent loss to South Africa in the quarter final, Fiji's performance at the time moved the team to 9th in the IRB world rankings – their highest position ever.

Naituivau also led the U20 Fijian National Team to the IRB Junior Rugby World Cup for three consecutive years from 2008-2010. He then helped coach the Fiji Warriors into the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup and the Flying Fijians into the IRB Pacific Nations Cup and Scotland Test Match ¬– all in 2012.

In 2013, Naituivau moved to California and was asked by Tawake to assist him in coaching the Lions.  Under this new coaching staff, the team has maintained steady improvement in gameplay as well as club organization. With just one loss in the regular season thus far, Naituivau has high hopes for the Lions in the 2014 post-season, and for future development of the club in the years to come.  Team Manager Aaron Frederick shares this enthusiasm.  

"Many of the Lions players have their roots in Fiji and the Pacific Islands, so it means a lot to these guys to be playing for and learning from two of their childhood idols," stated Frederick.  "Having Coach Tawake and Coach Epeli helps immensely to bring a whole new standard of high-performance rugby to our team as we try to keep pace with the top clubs, and the players know that these coaches have the necessary experience and knowledge to take them to that next level."  

Tawake and Naituivau have quickly established a successful partnership as the Lions continue to evolve and move towards a higher standard of rugby in Sacramento and the Northern California region.  While there is still much to prove for the Lions, Frederick believes the team is moving in the right direction.

"Sacramento rugby has amazing programs from youth to high school, and with the local colleges improving their standard, it has become our mission to try and improve rugby at the men's club level and within the Sacramento area," added Fredrick.  "These players have jobs and families, but they love the sport and want to be apart of a great club, and having coaches like Tawake and Epeli really helps keep that motivation high.  It requires many different factors to have a consistently successful top-level men's club in the U.S., but its good to know that we can cross coaching off the to-do list, and I am more than confident that rugby will continue to improve in Sacramento with these two at the helm."


Page 10 of 1946




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