No. 1 California visits British Columbia Sunday, March 24, as the Golden Bears seek to win their seventh straight "World Cup" in the series finale kicking off at 1 p.m. in Thunderbird stadium.
An annual two-match tradition between Cal and UBC that began in 1921 with a trophy from the Vancouver World newspaper to the team that emerges tops in total points, the 2013 "World Cup" started Feb. 16 with a 28-18 Bears win that gives Cal a 10-point advantage going into Sunday's rematch.
That margin happens also to be the points scored in the first match by Cal's Paul Bosco and Anthony Lombardo, two top-line backs who have since been lost for the season to injury. Those setbacks have opened up opportunities for talented but less-experienced Bears to join the fray.
Cal (16-0/4-0 PAC) has continued through its schedule since the "World Cup" opener with six wins, including three in the PAC Rugby Conference, while British Columbia (12-2-2) has been busy as well, winning twice and battling to its second tie of the season while also advancing to the semifinals of Canada's National Invitational 7s held in the beginning of March.
Assessing their keys to victory, both teams will likely aim to limit their error count and control possession while remaining ready to parry tactical kick exchanges for territory. UBC head coach Spence McTavish added the Thunderbirds will host their half of the 2013 "Cup" with a healthier lineup than those of the recent past. "I think we'll be much stronger at home than we were the last couple of years," he said.
A key matchup as Cal and UBC battle in the backline could be at outside center. Captain Seamus Kelly scored a try in the Berkeley opener and will wear the No. 13 jersey again opposite UBC's Brock Staller, who scored 13 points on a try, conversion and two penalties in that contest.
Among the forwards, Cal hasn't had J.P. Hurrell back at tighthead prop since he took an injury the following week at UCLA, creating playing time for Lyall Davenport and sophomore Chris Fry. Whoever starts at position will go up against Alex Kam, the UBC captain and a 2012 British Columbia provincial U-23 selection.
Sunday will mark the start of an exciting stretch for the Rugby Bears, with the "World Cup" capper followed by a Homecoming celebration to welcome students and alumni back to Witter Rugby Field on Saturday, March 30, against Utah. Two weeks after the match with the Utes marks the end of Cal's PAC conference slate, the Bears host Saint Mary's in the resumption of that local rivalry to end the regular season.
The Bears' postseason is already set with the Varsity Cup quarterfinal, in which Cal faces Notre Dame April 20 at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The winner of that match will host the winner of Navy vs. Dartmouth April 27, with the championship May 4 in Provo, Utah. Following the Varsity Cup, Cal will compete in the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s June 1-2 in Philadelphia.
Despite all that rugby on the horizon, the first mission for Cal this weekend is to bring the "World Cup" back to Berkeley.
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