After playing 92 straight road matches over two-and-a-half years during the repurposing of Witter Rugby Field to support the renovation of Memorial Stadium, the Golden Bears will add four more fixtures to their run as the visitors when they kick off their spring 2013 season at the All-UC Tournament, also known as the Dennis Storer Classic, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 19-20, on the North Athletic Field at UCLA.
"Our plan is to travel everyone that's healthy, about 60 players, and give them all a chance to play," said head coach Jack Clark. "Like all the teams, we want to win, but the first time out, I am more interested in spreading around the playing time than I am in chasing results. In the four matches, we'll select four different lineups and reserve benches. If things go to plan, we could select close to a starting team on Sunday."
California, with its No. 3 national preseason ranking, gets started in the event featuring six members of the University of California system with its match against UC Santa Barbara at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The Bears and Gauchos have not played each other since April 22, 2006, when Cal defeated UCSB in the National Collegiate Round of 16 at Witter Rugby Field, 45-15.
Next up for the Rugby Bears will be UC Davis at 12:20 p.m. Saturday. The Aggies began their season last weekend at home against Cal Poly, falling to the Mustangs, 43-17. In the last 15s meeting between Cal and UC Davis, on March 17, 2012, the Bears piled 14 tries on the Aggies to win, 86-7.
UC San Diego then awaits Cal at 2 p.m. Saturday in a reunion of two teams that have not met for many years. The Bears aim to send a freshmen lineup onto the pitch against the Tritons, whose spring season starts earlier in the day against UCLA.
The Bruins and Bears will square off on Sunday to culminate the weekend. UCLA, which has a No. 13 national preseason ranking, last played Cal in 15s on March 10, 2012, yielding a dozen tries in a 79-3 win for the Bears. Following its final match of the weekend, Cal will return home Sunday evening and get back into the meeting room Monday, with classes set to commence for the semester on Tuesday.
It's a hectic start for which the Bears are thankful, according to Clark: "After a few of weeks in training camp, I think our team is looking forward to actually playing rugby as opposed to just training for it."
"UCLA is delighted to kick off our Rugby XVs season by welcoming back to campus most of our UC colleagues," said Bruins head coach Scott Stewart. "The friendly rivalry and competition that exists between the teams will create some exciting rugby on the field and reinforce the camaraderie off it."
New this year at this event will be the Dennis Storer Memorial Trophy, commissioned by Dorothy Storer, the widow of the former UCLA head coach and the first coach of the U.S. National Team.
Following their trip to Los Angeles, the Bears return home for a midweek evening tilt against Santa Clara on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7:30 p.m., followed on Saturday, Jan. 26, by the battle for the Scrum Axe vs. Stanford at 1 p.m. to celebrate the official reopening of Witter Rugby Field.
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