Today, University of West Florida Rugby will be hosting the first of eight national sevens qualifier tournaments, in Pensacola, FL. The qualifiers will give teams a chance to be able to participate in the National Small College Rugby 7s Championships, which is held in Philadelphia, PA on May 31 – June 2 and televised on NBC.
The West Florida national qualifier tournament will feature 6 teams, University of North Florida; last years 7’s championship finalist, University of West Florida, Loyola University of New Orleans, Florida A&M, Emory University, and Florida Gulf Coast University. UWF started preparing for the qualifier match last summer. This is not the first time that UWF has had hosted large rugby tournaments. West Florida has held the 15’s Deep South Cup Championships at their field. So preparing for this tournament was not to great a task for this West Florida team. “It takes a bit of planning. Especially to finding the teams to play in the tournament,” says team president, William Nield. “But it wasn’t to hard once we got the paperwork done”.
UWF Rugby is a program that plays in the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) division of the Deep South Rugby Union. In the last year, due to the lack of numbers, UWF has worked on building their Sevens program where they can still utilize their players to their maximum ability. “With the occasion of lack of numbers, sevens is easier for us,” said Nield. With the new focus that goes towards Sevens, with Rugby Sevens now an event for the 2016 Olympics being the driving force, more teams that are having difficulty fielding people to participate in a full 15s season, are able to still have options to compete.
With the continued growth of popularity of Sevens rugby, and focus on building Sevens into it’s own entity, makes the early impact of these efforts by teams like West Florida, that much more important. The attention that is attached to the prestige of holding these events will be more defined in the years to come. For now teams, like West Florida, will have a chance to cultivate their program and bring more awareness to the rugby that they play. The games will be held at, 11000 University Parkway, Pensacola, FL 32514, and starting at 9:00am. There will be a social held afterwards so that players and spectators can enjoy the days events.