If history is any indication, this year’s College Rugby Championship (CRC) could feature a plethora of current and future USA Eagles. With college rugby’s best talent concentrated in one tournament and increased exposure due to United World Sports Partnership with NBC Sports, the Collegiate Rugby Championship continues to produce professional talent.
Since collegiate rugby is not under the auspices of the NCAA, the CRC provides top tier rugby players the opportunity to showcase their skills on the national stage. Players have the ability to participate in international competition, while still maintaining their athletic eligibility. Thus, the CRC features current professionals, including USA Eagles.
Seamus Kelly returns to the University of California’s back line with seven international caps including a stellar performance in a narrow loss to Ireland last fall.
Central Washington’s Pat Blair and Dartmouth’s Madison Hughes join Kelly as two current collegiate rugby players who have participated in international rugby. While Kelly’s international appearances have been in 15 aside rugby, Pat Blair and Madison Hughes have broken into the USA men’s sevens squad.
These three players will most certainly continue their international careers post graduation, joining the ranks of many other Collegiate Rugby Championship participants. Former CRC competitors include the likes of current and former USA Eagles such as Blaine Scully (currently with Leicester Tigers), Colin Hawley, Danny Barrett and Will Holder.
Named to the Rugbymag all-tournament team for the 2013 CRC, Brett Thompson has become a fixture on the USA Men’s Eagles sevens team. Thompson was a strong contributor in the USA Sevens tournament and has continued to be a contributor in the HSBC 7’s World Series. Thompson will certainly be in the equation when the USA attempts to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
After the 2013 CRC, Life University’s Cam Dolan signed with the Northhampton Saints of the Aviva Premiership Rugby League in England. In fact, the Aviva Premiership sent over 40 delegates to the 2013 CRC and plans to do so again in 2014. With Rugby in the United States improving, Dolan joins a respected group of CRC athletes to sign professional contracts abroad.
CRC athletes are not only making splashes in rugby, they are playing professionally in other American sports. Before Carlin Isles made waves by signing with the Detroit Lions this year, the New England Patriots of the National Football League, drafted the former CRC standout, Nate Ebner. Ebner, a former MVP of the IRB U-19 World Championship, has played the last two seasons in the NFL.
This year’s CRC will most certainly feature future USA Eagles. With the final airing live May 31 – June 1st on NBC, you have the ability to see the next generation of American Rugby players showcase their talents.