Dust off that California Cup...Winter League Coming.

The Northern California Rugby Football Union (NorCal) and the Southern California Rugby Football Union (SCRFU) are dusting off the California Cup to be used this winter. Two years ago the top two teams from each division in each union played for the California Cup. While the idea was great (playing in between in Santa Barbara and having the top sides play it out for supremacy in the hotbed of rugby) it did hurt some of the teams who the following that went on to Nationals with injuries sustained over two days of physical competition after a long regular season. The idea wasn’t bad but it put our California sides under more wear and tear that some of those they faced.  

The Cup is back this year but in a different format. This Tournament will be a “winter league” as some have called it. The months of November to January tend to be preseason for nearly all the clubs in California. League play, Pacific Rugby Premiership (PRP), PRO Rugby  and the Americas Rugby Championship won’t start until the New Year so for this period most teams have all their players available to them.

Adriaan Ferris (Athletic Director for Life West, NorCal Selects (Pelicans) coach and assistant coach for the San Francisco Rush) said that some PRO Rugby players could receive releases to return to their clubs with permission to play in this tournament. Without the California Cup some of the higher level players (Eagles, PRO, and PRP) wouldn’t get to play in anything other than scrimmages and some pre-season games as they leave for their competitions.

This new format allows the clubs who are willing to take on the challenge to field all their best players against other sides. Think of it as more of a Curry Cup. The players for the tournament are from all levels returning to their home club to play. This would allow those playing D1, PRP or PRO Rugby to get some good quality work in the pre-season but against more evenly matched competition.

Ben Parker, President of NorCal said “The California Cup will be a short league that will play in December and January and will feature San Francisco Golden Gate, Life West, and Olympic Club as well as OMBAC, Belmont Shore, and the San Diego Old Aztecs”.  Three teams from each union with two clubs in each union who played in the high level PRP and the other are the Unions’ top finishers. This will allow for the clubs to complete in a short season and face more evenly matched sides.  The six team competition will playout over five weeks.

There are questions with regard to the PRP. The PRP season would have been in direct competition with the ARC and PRO Rugby.  SFGG already has a team in NorCal’s D1. Olympic Club is planning to field a side in NorCal’s D1 this year, Life West and Old Aztecs are both already D1 teams, and of the other PRP teams in California Santa Monica, OMBAC and Belmont Shore have all had D1 sides before. So their teams could play in a deeper D1 league. Playing in the CA Cup and D1 may not take on the expensive price tag of the PRP which would at the same time have ARC and PRO going on which could result in the loss of some players by the PRP sides.  This isn’t a PRP story so back to the California Cup.

With the likelihood that PRO Rugby players will be playing in this competition means that you’ll also have the potential for some international level players to also be in the mix along with players from some of the PRP sides and their club’s first sides. Since all the teams would have access to their top players the competition would be fairly even and really could be the best domestic competition outside of PRO Rugby. 

The specific motives have not been laid out, but it can been seen that there is an influence from PRO Rugby. PRO Rugby has been able to identify great domestic talent. Pro Rugby has also impacted PRP and may have a greater impact on PRP this year as some players could seek opportunities in PRO Rugby, which would impact the PRP club’s numbers. While PRP has not folded shop, it likely it will suspend play and work to take up this play when its not in direct completion with the like of ARC and PRO Rugby or the 7s season (most likely a fall or winter league).  

PRO Rugby also had a big impact on club teams in the state (more on that in our up coming feature).  With three teams in the state, a number of players for the local clubs and unions have departed their clubs to play for the PRO teams. So why would players at the PRP levelwho are close to a PRO team not also look to transition?

The California Cup can benefit all rugby. It gets us another great domestic competition, as well as an outlet to assess players.  It will benefits PRO with giving its players some quality work before the season, it gives some of those Eagles with ties to these clubs (and there are a few) a chance to play before going into camp and the ARC.  The  California Cup give us an opportunity to see more rugby, more quality and for the participating players to be seen again, to match their skills against some of the other top level clubs and have a chance to prepare for their the coming seasons.