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Twenty five of the best collegiate rugby players across the United States are set for one of the biggest opportunities in their young rugby careers. The USA Rugby Collegiate All-Americans (CAA) are scheduled to play Oxford University in conjunction with the Premiership Rugby American Series being held at Talen Energy Stadium, outside Philadelphia, PA on September 16.
Taking place prior to the Premiership match between the Newcastle Falcons and Saracens, the match will give these elite college players the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of professional rugby scouts. Not only will there be representatives from the two competing Premiership sides, evaluators from additional Premiership teams will be on hand to identify the next wave of American talent. The Newcastle/Saracens game will feature three American-born players, and the Premiership is keen on bringing more American athletes overseas.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity for the guys that are included in the squad,” said CAA Team Manager and Notre Dame Head Coach Justin Hickey. “This is easily the most high profile match with the most high profile opponent the CAAs have had. It is an opportunity for our guys to represent the country and play in front of a packed house that includes staff members from all the Premiership teams.”
A myriad of notable players have come through the CAA ranks and have ended up playing professionally abroad. In fact, Nic Civetta, who was a Collegiate All-American at Notre Dame, is a current member of the Newcastle Falcons and will be suiting up in the American Series. Additionally, Cam Dolan and Blaine Scully, who play professional rugby with the Cardiff Blues, are former CAA members. Scully captained the 2011 touring squad.
A number of other Collegiate All-Americans have made their way to the national team. Madison Hughes and Nate Brakeley out of Dartmouth, as well as Nate Augspurger out of Minnesota, are several of many to climb through the CAA ranks to make the national teams.
“Being part of the Collegiate All-Americans was a big part of my development as a rugby player. It was exposed me to a higher level of rugby and showed me what was necessary for me to excel against bigger and more talented opponents,” said Penn Mutual Brand Ambassador and USA Eagles standout Madison Hughes.
The 25 current college players selected hail from 16 different colleges and universities and have undergone a rigorous selection process to be a part of the CAA squad. Most of the players have participated in a collegiate rugby identification camp after either being recommended by a coach or having been seen in a major college rugby event. In total, the CAA coaching staff has had its eye on over a 100 players throughout the course of the last year.
“With player recommendations and with events like the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup and the DIA playoffs, we have had the opportunity to identify players from high profile tournaments,” Hickey said. “The process has been about as comprehensive as it’s ever been.”
College rugby continues to rise in the United States and the CAA match with Oxford University adds a new layer to the growth. The CAA staff is identifying more and more elite level rugby players and with the exposure of high profile events like the American Series, it is the hope that more collegiate rugby players will be able to make the next step in their careers.
“With major broadcasting networks like NBCSN, and strong corporate sponsors like Penn Mutual investing heavily in rugby, it is a tremendous time to be a college rugby player,” Hickey concluded.