DJ Eberle is a student/athlete at Western New England University. He is an offensive tackle, built like his dad; a rugby Prop. Track him on Twitter @Ebstide52
NEW ORLEANS, LA – This last weekend of the NCAA Basketball Final Four got me thinking rugby again and how this tournament and its rivalries are a lot like the knock-out rounds of the Rugby World Cup. The University of Louisville vs the University of Kentucky and Australia’s Wallabies vs New Zealand’s All Blacks are both great rivalries and, one could argue, the most underrated outside their respective fan bases. Let’s take look:
Louisville Basketball vs. Kentucky Basketball History
The overall series in The Battle of The Bluegrass State seems a little more lopsided by its record – 29-14 in favor of Kentucky– than it truly is. But the Louisville/Kentucky rivalry is rich in history and is the likely the most underrated rivalry in college basketball. Some Atlantic Coast Conference rivalries are more known (North Carolina vs Duke), but in my opinion the UNC/Duke rivalry is overrated. Either way, UL and UK have been two of the perennial power houses in college basketball for quite some time. Kentucky reached the Final Four last season and Louisville made it in 2005. Further, this is not the first time the two schools have met in the NCAA Tournament – but is the deepest into it. The last time the two met was in the Elite Eight in 1983, with Louisville winning 80-68 victory. This year is a bit more personal for UL head coach Rick Pitino. Pitino had a eight-year stint at Kentucky where he brought Kentucky to three Final Four appearances, including one national championship. After the 1997 season Pitino went to the NBA to coach the Boston Celtics, which lasted only until 2001. Then he went to Louisville. Louisville has already faced Kentucky once this season – and lost by seven. UL is the underdog this year but with Pitino on the Cardinal’s bench, anything can happen. Finally, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale rates the Louisville/Kentucky rivalry third best in all of college sports.
Australia vs. New Zealand History
The Wallabies and the All Blacks have been two of the most powerful countries in rugby union for a long, long time. At least one of these countries has finished in the top three in the Rugby World Cup since the first tournament in 1987. Each country has two World Cup victories and one second place finish. When someone says rugby, you automatically think Wallabies and All Blacks. And since they are two neighboring islands (if you can call a continent an island) it brings that proximity factor into their rivalry, similar to the shared geography by Louisville and Kentucky. Like Kentucky, you can say that New Zealand is the more dominant of the two. Both countries compete in The Rugby Championship – formally known as the Tri Nations – annually. The Rugby Championship is now a four-team tournament that will include Argentina for the first time this year; previously only New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa competed. New Zealand has heavily dominated the Rugby Championship with 10 championships, to Australia’s three. But for now Australia is the reigning Rugby Championship champion, so they have the crown away from New Zealand for at least one year.
So, what are your favorite rivalries in rugby? What about all of sports? And yes, soccer counts. 😉