Collegiate Rugby Championship set to be a showcase for growing sport

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    Larry Needle

    Larry Needle

    This weekend, the Collegiate Rugby Championship, the largest rugby sevens championship in the United States, returns to Chester’s Talen Energy Stadium.

    The tournament will build momentum for the debut of ugby sevens in this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and a number of players are likely to make the U.S. team.

    “The Collegiate Rugby Championships is a fantastic event,” Larry Needle, the executive director of PHL Sports, said. “It’s really one that frankly we didn’t know a lot about 10 years ago. Along with an event out of Las Vegas (the US Rugby Sevens), it’s really the big U.S. rugby event.”

    Rugby sevens was officially announced as an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee in 2009, marking the return of the sport to the games for the first time since 1924 — the normal rugby 15s version was a part of the Olympics in 1900, 1908, 1920, and 1924. The sport’s fast and frantic pace has helped drive up its popularity in the United States in recent years.

    “The sevens is incredibly exciting,” Needle said. “It happens so quickly and the games literally take 15 minutes.  It’s just constant change of teams and action.

    “We will definitely have some Olympians in the stadium this weekend,” he added. “And that level of play we see, even though in many colleges, it’s a club sport, but that level of play is tremendous.”

    PHL Sports, a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, brings major sporting events and conventions to the region on behalf of the City of Philadelphia. Needle spoke about the area’s enthusiasm and suitability for this big event and others.

    “One of the great things that Philadelphia offers for rugby, and other events, is our geography in the heart of the Northeast. It just lends itself so that you’re going to have fans coming from up and down the East Coast,” Needle said. “You have many of these fans who are staying either in the city or in the surrounding suburbs. What’s good for the region is good for the city and vice versa.”

    For more on the Collegiate Rugby Championship, plus PHL’s efforts to bring other major events to the area, press play at the top of the page.

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