rugby

A Norwich player carries the ball during rugby action in Northfield.

The Norwich University men’s rugby team will head back to the USA Rugby Division II College 7s National Championship this week for the third straight year in search of its first national title.

This year’s tournament will take place Friday and Saturday at the Kino Sports Center in Tucson, Arizona.

The Cadets have finished ninth (2017) and seventh (2018) out of 12 teams in their last two appearances. Norwich will be joined by eight other returning teams from the 2018 National Championship, including the last two champions: UNC Charlotte and UW-Whitewater. UNC Charlotte won last year’s 7s title to finally dethrone UW-Whitewater, which won three of the prior four USA Rugby Division II titles. The Warhawks won the 2016 and 2017 15s titles and the 2017 7s title.

William Patterson, Hartford, Principia, NC State, Bloomsburg and Montana State join Norwich, UNC Charlotte and UW-Whitewater as repeat finalists from last year’s tournament. East Carolina, IUPUI and Iowa Central round out this year’s championship field.

The Cadets have drawn East Carolina, IUPUI and Montana State as their three pool-play opponents.

Norwich (19-7-3) will face Montana State on Friday morning to kick off the tournament. The Cadets will face East Carolina on Friday afternoon before wrapping up the day against IUPUI. There are three pools of four teams each, with the top two teams in each pool plus two wild card teams advancing to the eight-team Cup knockout round.

Norwich is in Pool A, while UNC Charlotte, William Patterson, Iowa Central and Bloomsburg comprise Pool B. Pool C features UW-Whitewater, 2013 champion Principia, Hartford and North Carolina State.

The Cadets made three straight USA Rugby Division II 15s National Tournament appearances, finished third in 2016 and 2017 before suffering a round of 16 loss to Queens University last fall.

North Carolina State dethroned UW-Whitewater in the fall to win the 2018 15s title. UNC Charlotte needed an at-large bid to make this year’s 7s field after East Carolina won the South Region qualifier.

Norwich qualified for the USA Rugby Division II 7s National Championship for the third time in program history by winning the Rugby Northeast Conference 7s title last month at UMass Lowell. The Cadets have had a storybook run the last three seasons, going undefeated in conference play in both 15s and 7s matches the last three years. Junior Nathan Rolling leads Norwich with 30 tries this spring in 7s action.

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