California travels to the University of British Columbia this weekend for a Sunday, March 25, showdown at noon in Thunderbird Stadium to culminate this year's edition of the 91-year-old "World Cup" series.
Winners of 12 of the past 15 "World Cups" and the last five in a row, the Golden Bears are entering hostile territory with a one-point advantage in the two-match series, which the host T-Birds will be looking to seize for the first time since 2006.
The projected lineup for the Rugby Bears includes Lyall Davenport at tighthead prop with Jeremy Deterding potentially moving over to his All-America position of loosehead. Tanner Mohr and Zack Klaas are additional options at those positions.
Brendan Daly and sophomore Patrick Coleman appear set as the starting locks and No. 8 Danny Barrett is sure to anchor the back row.
Connor Ring will wear the No. 9 jersey but it is unclear whether he will be paired at flyhalf with sophomore Paul Bosco or Alex Aronson, who is rebounding from injury. Inside center is yet to be determined, too, while outside center belongs to Seamus Kelly.
Sophomore Jake Anderson has been a productive fullback and placekicker since taking over that role at Utah. Anthony Lombardo has shown stellar form recently at the left wing, but the choice for right wing is not yet set.
In the last 10 years, Cal has won eight of the "World Cup" series, sweeping UBC four times and winning on aggregate points after splitting the series in four of those years.
The most dramatic series win might have been in 2003, when the Bears bounced back from a 30-17 loss on Witter Rugby Field. Needing a 14-point victory to overtake the deficit, Cal did just that, beating the Thunderbirds, 26-12, in Vancouver.
"The teams are remarkably similar in playing standard," said Cal head coach Jack Clark. "This has produced, more often than not, close matches."
While the Bears go to UBC this weekend with a 13-12 win already under their belts, their one-point advantage is essentially no advantage at all. A two-point conversion or a three-point penalty would be enough for UBC to overcome that slimmest of margins.
"I don't think either team is thinking about the composite score," said Clark. "For both teams it is `win the match, win the cup.'"
One point was the difference the last time UBC beat Cal, a 24-23 result at Thunderbird Stadium in 2009, although Cal's 16-point cushion entering that match ensured the Bears brought the "Cup," named for the Vancouver World newspaper, back to Berkeley.
If Sunday's battle were to end in a one-point UBC victory to tie the series on total points, the tiebreaker would be total tries scored by each team over two matches. Only one try was scored by either team in the 13-12 squeaker Feb. 18 on Treasure Island, by Barrett and the Bears in the 74th minute.
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