Bears Begin Final Season With 'Home' Game Far From Home

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The Cal Athletics newsletter calls tomorrow's game against Chico State a home match for the Cal rugby team. Coach Jack Clark objects to the term.

"It's not a home match," Clark said. "There are no home matches for two years. It is what it is. There's nothing pretty about it."

Rather than playing at Witter Rugby Field, the Bears will face the Wildcats at the San Francisco Gaelic Athletic Association on Treasure Island at 1 p.m.

Although the rugby team practices at Witter, the field's recently installed turf to accommodate the football and lacrosse teams makes it unsafe for full rugby competition.

Clark said he is not well acquainted with the facility hosting Saturday's contest, but has a general impression.

"It's bad," Clark said. "Windy. Open field. Non-stadium. Just, it's where we are."

"It's not Witter Rugby Field," said co-captain Blaine Scully. "It's hard to explain how Witter Rugby Field is on a Saturday morning in the canyon It's a really special venue with the championship banners lying on the walls and all the old guys come out, the alumni. They greet you. They cheer you on."

Saturday's tilt against Chico State (1-0) marks Cal's first local competition after beating Sacramento State last week and winning a weekend Pac-10 tournament at UCLA. While Cal was in Los Angeles, the Wildcats (1-0) stormed back to defeat favorite UC Davis, 18-13.

"(The Wildcats are) guys that really love the game of rugby and they'll always give you 100 percent on the field, and they're not afraid to hit you in the mouth," Scully said.

Though aware of Chico's hardiness, the Bears are not scouting their opponent. Rather, they are focusing on fundamentals, like passing and catching.

"During this first part of the season, it's critical that we begin to develop our team from a systems standpoint so that when the teams with more firepower come on the horizon, we can give ourselves a chance," Clark said.

This match also presents the opportunity for personnel evaluation, as Clark will trot out a "mixed lineup" of starters and less experienced players.

As Cal enters the new College Premier League this year, the season is extended a month and a half, which requires a different mentality, especially early.

"Some of us who have been around for a while, we're amping up because it's season time and we're starting ready to play," Scully said.

"One of the challenges for all of us is how do we manage this new, longer season, and keep bodies fresh and not doing too much. We don't want to blow anybody up before the games really start mattering."


Christina Jones covers rugby. Contact her at [email protected]

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