PHILADELPHIA, PA – Today sees the 2015 revival of one of North America’s classic rugby rivalries. Cal hosts the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Saturday, February 7, at 2 p.m.(PST) on Witter Rugby Field, in a match that will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks.
We talked to Colin Hawley, who is providing analysis for the Pac 12 Networks for the broadcast. Hawley was the Bears’ captain, along with Keegan Engelbrecht and Eric Fry in his senior season in 2010.
As Hawley sees it, the key to the game will be the contact area and breakdown. Hawley sighed as he recounted his own matches against UBC and how every breakdown was an “absolute fight.” The game might hinge on “How Cal fronts up” to the physical challenge. Fullback and captain Jake Anderson is a known playmaker for the Bears, but Hawley also mentioned fly half Russell Webb as another key.
Of course, how the battle at the breakdown goes will determine how much and what quality Webb has to work with. Alec Gletzer will start at 7 for Cal. He is already on Mike Tolkin’s radar as he was at the recent Eagles’ forwards camp. Geltzer will be contending with the likes of Connor Hamilton, who has been a physical presence for the Thunderbirds.
In UBC’s favor is their build up to the match. Cal has not faced any close competition this season, while UBC has had tough games in the CDI Premier League in British Columbia.
One thing to Cal’s advantage is the home territory. The Cal crowd and players will welcome the Thunderbirds not to a field, but to what they call the “Center of the Universe.” Cal has also won 16 of the last 20 matches against UBC. All four UBC victories have happened in Canada.
While this season’s Cal will certainly miss a leader like Seamus Kelly and other seniors, there is no reason to think the squad won’t be ready for this physical challenge.
Cal’s lack of strong competition on a weekly basis might be seen as a symptom of the fractured men’s college game. For Hawley, “It’s just and process,” and “Things are taking their natural course.” He is one observer who seems to have patience, not complaints and sees whatever turmoil there is now as being a spur to innovation and change.
Hawley is a busy man at the moment. In addition to captaining the Olympic Club in the Pacific Rugby Premiership, he is developing a mentoring program to help high school athletes looking to succeed in collegiate and representative rugby. Hawley’s goal is to “help the US become a rugby nation.” Along with the duties of an analyst, Hawley, Engelbrecht, and Fry (in spirit and in checkbook if not in person) will be taking the current team out for dinner the night before.
Saturday’s match will air live at 2 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks. International viewers, especially in Canada, can access the broadcast via the Pac-12 Networks YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/pac12networksintl
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