World Cup Preview in the California Republic this Summer!
Rugby and California seem to be a great marriage. The Golden State has several international cities which feature large ex-pats from rugby countries. Its also has a slew of large cities such as Los Angles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland ,Bakersfield (these are in order from largest down), and other surrounding areas which support rugby.
This year the USA Rugby’s National 15s Club Championships featured three clubs from California with two making it to the quarter finals for DI. DII four were in the playoffs, with Life West making it all the way to the National Championship game where they’ll play Wisconsin on June 14th. In DIII there were three in the tournament with two making it to the quarter-finals. In the Women’s DI two California teams were in the tournament with one making it to the semifinals. In women’s DII there were two California teams in the mix with the Sac Amazons making it to the National Championship game set for June 14th.
This is being said just to show that rugby is big here in California and we have quality at that. We won’t even go into the various college programs (St. Mary’s, Cal, Chico State, UCLA, Cal Poly, etc.) or the high school programs for boys and girls.
Now in-case you hadn’t heard for some odd reason, for the 3rd summer in a row international rugby is coming to the golden state in the form of the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC)! World Rugby (formerly the International Rugby Board) created the Pacific Nations Cup for the tier two countries to get international exposure and experience in an effort to become tier one countries.
The Pacific Nations Cup is a six country round robin tournament which features Tonga, Samoa, Japan, Fiji, Canada and the USA. This year California will play host to two of the five venues for this international tournament! San Jose and Sacramento will play host to two games each (allowing 4 international matches to be played in California).
The first double header will be on July 18th in San Jose’s Avaya Stadium (which is home to the MLS’ Earthquakes). This venue will host the match between Japan (Brave Blossoms) and Canada and USA Eagles vs Manu Samoa. Now Japan, Manu Samoa and the USA are all in the same pool (Pool B) for the World Cup this fall, and this will be an opportunity for all these sides to see what the other sides have. People you are getting a world cup previews! All you have to do is drive.
The past two PNC where the USA played at the Stub Hub Center in Carson the turn out was poor to say the least for their game last year vs Japan (which is a very good side with a fast paced game) and the year before vs Tonga. USA Rugby and rugby supporters are hoping with the new venues, the double headers and the competition, there will be a draw this year. The USA vs Manu Samoa will be a good one, as will Japan vs Canada which are very evenly matched. If these types of international matches are not attended well it will become harder to pull more international rugby to California (where we can easily attend).
Just six days later at Sacramento’s Bonney Field there will another double header. Now, Bonney Field has only half the capacity of the San Jose venue and while not yet sold out it is getting close to it. This venue is the same where the Eagles defeated Canada in a very close match last summer as part of their world cup qualifier. That was venue was packed last year and should be again this year.
The Sacramento venue will also host a double header. The USA will have a rematch from last year and will take on the Brave Blossoms of Japan. At this venue you will be even close to all the action on the field. Last year the crowd support really helped push the Eagles to victory. The best match up of the Pacific Nations stop in California is the clash between Samoa and Fiji! Now this is 15s and not 7s, but the style of open play and showmanship will still be present between these two sides. And in addition to the rugby rivalry there is also some historical rivalry in this one too, so both teams will bring it.
All the teams in the Pacific Nations are teams that will be playing this fall in the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, so if you aren’t going to England then head up to NorCal and for a fairly cheap price you can see 4 to 8 international matches. Ticket prices are $20, $33, $48, $53, or VIP seating at $103 per ticket. So for $20-$30 you can get out there. Tickets are available online http://usarugby.org/tickets. Both San Jose and Sacramento are also great towns to hang out in before and after the game with plenty of bars, pubs, and restaurants.
Ruggers, it’s not going to get better than this. Quality international matches, with good teams, great ticket prices, easy to access (even with a drive from SoCal). It may not be the same as seeing the Eagles vs Australia in Chicago. That just one game, likely have to travel a great distance, pay for fights and hotels, tickets aren’t that cheap, the venue is big and you are away form the action, etc. Its not sounding better than the deal to head to San Jose or Sac. So if you are a rugger, a rugby fan, or just a sports fan and you live in California or near, you need to get to one of these two match days (which again have two games each).
Lets show USA Rugby why they need to keep bring international rugby to California. Let us show them with our numbers that we want big time rugby in California. A number of California clubs showed on the pitch on the national level that we have quality rugby in California, let’s show them now we also have the same presence off the pitch.
Hope to see the ruggers of the republic in San Jose and Sac this summer. Go Eagles!!!
The Pacific Nations Venues
Top Photo- Sacramento's Bonney Field.
Bottom Photo-San Jose's Avaya Stadium