It is one of the oldest rivalries in all of sports, one rich in tradition, and linked to the City of Philadelphia for over 100 years: Army vs. Navy. A new chapter will be created for this legendary match-up when the two teams meet face-to-face at PPL Park in Chester, PA at 5:02 p.m. on Saturday, June 4 in the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC). The competition, which features 16 of the nation’s top collegiate rugby teams, concludes on Sunday, June 5 also at PPL Park.
Rugby is the most winning team at West Point and has been a leader in USA college rugby since its founding in 1961, competing in the Collegiate Rugby Sweet 16 Tournament every year since its inception.
“Like most athletes at West Point, our team enjoys the challenges of being leaders and athletes,” Army Head Coach Rich Pohlidal states. Working through those challenges at West Point gives his players the military and leadership requirements they need. “Being on the athletic field is very much the same as being in the Army,” Pohlidal continues. “Certain programs, rugby being one of them, know this and try to structure their programs that way.” Pohlidal also observes that his ruggers “get into more elite units and high companies.”
It is also true that Navy SEALs have a connection to Rugby. “This year we had two SEAL selectees, neither are on the squad due to training commitments,” comments Navy Head Coach Mike Flanagan. “I think the SpecWar [Naval Special Warfare Command] community likes the fact these guys can think, react and respond to an ever-changing situation with poise and confidence. The job is like rugby: fluid, dynamic and physical.”
The Cadets and Midshipmen have profound requirements and obligations that extend into the summer beyond their academics.
“For us,” begins Pohlidal, “it is great to have the West Point leadership [Superintendent General Huntoon, Commandant General Rapp, Director of Cadet Activities, Colonel Flowers, and Dean General Trainor] as a supporter of Rugby, especially with the structure of the Military Academy. Our cadets, and the Midshipmen, have summer training duties and other obligations. To have both Cadets and Midshipmen involved in the CRC is a great opportunity for our academies.”
Army and Navy, assigned to Pool C of the tournament, will also face the ruggers from Central Washington and North Carolina in the first day of the round-robin schedule.
Justin Hundley, Army’s Assistant Coach and 7’s Specialist, says Army always looks forward to competition with good athletes and that Central Washington will play a very good brand of 7’s. “Against UNC, the Cadets will need to play an aggressive defense, which Hundley says “suits Army well.”
“The CRC caps off our year,” Navy’s Flanagan notes. “We get to play great teams in a terrific venue. Certainly we have a tough road with UNC and Central Washington, neither of which are pushovers. The fact that Army is in our pool just makes it better.”
Army and Navy rugby played each other earlier this season at West Point in what Flanagan calls a “terrific game of rugby,” despite Navy’s 34-27 loss. Both teams were undefeated at the start of the match.
Both coaching staffs are aware that “Philly loves Army-Navy” and agree that “the world wants Army-Navy.”
“With Army-Navy, it’s always a big deal,” Hundley admits. “Winning Army-Navy is comparable to winning a championship game.”
“Shoot, people would show and take sides if we had an impromptu game of tiddly-winks,” confirms Flanagan.
Army and Navy’s schedules for the first round of the CRC on Saturday, June 4 are as follows:
11:26 a.m. Navy vs. North Carolina
11:48 a.m. Army vs. Central Washington
1:38 p.m. Navy vs. Central Washington
2:54 p.m. Army vs. North Carolina
5:02 p.m. Army vs. Navy
Single-day and weekend tickets for USA 7’s CRC are available exclusively through ComcastTIX on line at ComcastTIX.com, by phone at 1-800-298-4200 or in person at the PPL Park box office. Group discounts are available by calling 215-389-9543.