Cal Looks to Strike Down Thunderbirds In World Cup

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Last week, the Cal rugby team received word it would continue its tradition as a varsity sport in its 130th season next year. This weekend, the Bears will continue another tradition of competition, this one beginning in 1921.

Cal (14-0) will host the first leg of the World Cup series against British Columbia tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Treasure Island's San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club. The competition, whose name derives from the sponsorship of the now-defunct Vancouver World newspaper, has always been among the most anticipated of the year.

"It's a special week for all of us," senior co-captain Derek Asbun said. "And I think everyone who's a part of this team knows that this preparation is more intense than most weeks, and we're really switched on for it."

Though the Bears have won 11 of the last 14 World Cups, the scores are often not as lopsided as the win-loss record. Last year, however, Cal handily defeated the Thunderbirds in both matches by 31 points each. It was the largest margin of victory since 2002, when coach Jack Clark's team prevailed by 34.

"The games are always pretty close," Clark said. "It's not uncommon to have in the two-game series a split in the outcomes."

The deciding match will take place in late March, but UBC is currently focused on splitting a different series. After dropping a 34-19 decision to St. Mary's on Wednesday, the Thunderbirds look to go 1-1 on their trip to Northern California by taking one from the Bears.

"UBC is always a huge measuring point for us," Asbun said. "We know that this is the time to show up, and this is something that's just as important as most other games in our competition, in our league. We treat it as such."

The Thunderbirds will assuredly provide Cal its stiffest competition yet, which will change the amount of time starters play. The regular first 15 have yet to play a full 80 minutes. In past matches, he negotiated liberal substitution policies allowing a whole new side to come in for the second half.

On Saturday however, the starters should see more time, with the typically allowed eight substitutions. Although the starting lineups have not played extensively as a unit, the team does not foresee a problem in working together, but perhaps in its stamina.

"We're lucky to have that depth in our team where the first 15 go out and play the first 40 minutes of rugby, and then we can bring out a whole new 15 players," senior Drew Hyjer said. "It's a blessing and a curse in the way that sometimes we don't get as much fitness as we normally would, but this will be a good test for us."

This exam will not take place within the comforts of Witter Rugby Field. Nonetheless, the Bears are excited about playing in front of their fans for the first time since their reinstatement, seeing the match as an opportunity to thank their supporters.

"We are just so extremely grateful for all the men that stepped up and donated a lot of money to keep us afloat," Hyjer said. "It makes us want to give back to the program more through our play."

Tags: CAL RUGBY, JACK CLARK, JAMES BAILES


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



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