D1A heats up Las Vegas

D1A Rugby: D1A heats up Las Vegas
Photo Credit: Karen Drinkwater

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – USA Sevens in Las Vegas is an international spectacle, with eyes from all over the globe honing in on World Rugby’s Sevens Series’ fifth stop of the 2015-16 season. The massive event is not just for international athletes, though, as the week’s Las Vegas Invitational tournaments attract more than 200 club, college, and youth teams, including several from D1A Rugby.

By in large, most teams at LVI are competing in the same code of the game that the 16 international sides will play – sevens. However, the University of Arizona will once again use the weekend to fit in a 15-a-side game against a West Conference opponent. Last year, the Wildcats dispatched Wyoming ahead of USA Sevens. This year, the boys from Tucson, Ariz., will battle Colorado March 5.

The Buffaloes will be busy in Vegas. They not only will match up against No. 14 Arizona in 15s, but are one of four West Conference teams competing in the CRC 7s invitational qualifier. Air Force and Utah return to the LVI after playing a bit of sevens in Vegas last year, as well Colorado State. The 15th-ranked Rams had a strong fall campaign, but will be shorthanded this week with All-American Ben Pinkelman making his third consecutive tournament appearance for the Eagles.

Of course, Pinkelman isn’t the only player in Vegas without his college squad. Fellow All-American and Wheeling Jesuit loose forward Peter Malcolm is back with the Eagles’ developmental side – the Falcons. Both Malcolm and Pinkelman showed well for the Falcons at Halloween 7s this past fall.

Several other D1A standouts will be representing select sides at LVI. St. Bonaventure Bonnies and All-Rugby East performers Luis Carpio and John Sullivan will make impacts for Atlantis and Stars, respectfully.

After helping lead Davenport to the 2015 USA Rugby College 7s National Championship Final, center Anthony Welmers spent portions of the summer training and playing with the All-Army Selects, and makes his return to the elite military squad this week.

Wyoming is only one of two West Conference teams not in Las Vegas, but one Cowboy will be in Sin City. Outside center Cody Jerabek, who has scored nine tries in six matches this season, will line up with the always-potent Denver 7s Selects.

The LVI tournaments and 15s matches will take place March 3-5, and the USA Sevens runs from March 5-7. You can watch the Eagles and the other 15 nations battle for World Series points on World Rugby’s website, and portions of the three-day event will air on NBC and NBCSN.