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Cal Hosts Surging Arizona as PAC Opens

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Cal Hosts Surging Arizona as PAC Opens

Cal in action against a past 7s opponent and future PAC Conference opponent in Arizona State. The Bears take on the University of Arizona this weekend. David Barpal photo.

The PAC Rugby Conference gets going with #3 Cal hosting #41 Arizona.

Cal is 5-0 so far this season, while 4-0 Arizona is coming off an impressive 55-5 defeat of Santa Clara last week. The Wildcats, as they play more, will undoubtedly move up the rankings, while Cal is looking for another PAC Conference title.

The Golden Bears opened their home account for the 15-a-side season last Saturday, Jan. 24, with a 12-try 76-3 victory over Cal Poly. The projected starting lineup against Arizona reflects five new faces in the selected XV. Sophomore loose forwards John Spradling and Edward Tandy will link up with the halfback combo of Nicklas Boyer and Russell Webb, while Patrick Barrientes slots in at win. Those additions plus four additional positional changes are aimed at building flexibility and depth in the Cal side. Barrientes will be a new twist on the wing, Anthony Salaber gives a new look inside center, as does Harry Adolphus at outside center, and Connor Sweet moves over to blindside flanker.

​All-America co-captain Alec Gletzer is unavailable, having been selected to join a U.S. National Team forwards camp through the weekend at the Olympic Committee Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

Meanwhile, Arizona Head Coach Sean Duffy has named a largely unchanged side from last week, with center Ian Hause moving into the 23-man roster along with prop Amir Faraji and flanker Jake Rice. The Wildcats will continue to be led by captain and center Jack Arnold, who was a big part of Arizona's win last week.

"Jack has been fantastic as captain," said Duffy. "With our youngsters being implemented in to the side, having on-field leadership like Jack's is a tremendous resource." 

The Wildcats will also look to the attacking prowess of wings Anthony Spencer and Dante Weeks, who combined for three tries last week.

Arizona is a DIA independent team, so a strong performance in this game will not only have Conference implications, but will help them as they make a case for inclusion in the DIA playoffs. Cal will finish their season with the Varsity Cup Invitational tournament in April.

“Classic trap match,” said Cal Head Coach Jack Clark about the game. “Big, bad Thunderbirds of UBC the following week. National team call-up. Lineup rotation. Coming off a big scoreline victory the week prior. The setup is for a lackluster performance unless our players decide otherwise.”

Cal is certainly favored for this game, especially as they won big in Tucson last year. However, Duffy has his Wildcats playing well, and their scoreline against Santa Clara was impressive. The game will likely be decided in the tight five, where Cal is always strong. The Bears usually boast one of the best scrums in the business, but Arizona's front row is experienced and strong. In the front row, expect at least three former Jesuit HS players, with at least one on each side, just to spice things up.

Execution in the lineout is another Cal specialty, and with lock James Kondrat out of Xavier HS in Brooklyn, NY standing at 6-6 and jumping higher than that, they have an excellent lineout weapon. Arizona, again, has players to match the Cal second row, but that battle will be key.

Kickoff if 1pm Pacific Time at Witter Rugby Field at the University of California campus in Berkeley, Calif.

Meanwhile, UCLA travels to Oregon State in the other PAC Rugby Conference game. Bolstered by the additional experience of several recent USA age-graders such as Erik Thompson, Niall Barry, and Zach Bonte, the Bruins are led by the redoubtable Grant Penney at scrumhalf, and the always creative Ben Francis and Seb Sharpe. They are favored against Oregon State, but OSU  has been continually building and improving. They may be finding their way, but they are finding it.


PAC Rugby Conference 2015 Schedule 

1/31/2015 Arizona at Cal
1/31/2015 UCLA at Oregon State
2/7/2015 Utah at UCLA
2/14/2015 Arizona State at Cal
2/21/2015 Cal at UCLA
2/22/2015 Arizona at Arizona State
2/28/2015 UCLA at Arizona
2/28/2015 Utah at Cal
3/7/2015 Cal at Oregon State
3/7/2015 UCLA at Arizona State
3/7/2015 Arizona at Utah
3/14/2015 Oregon State at Utah
3/28/2015 Arizona State at Utah
4/10/2015 Oregon State at Arizona State
4/12/2015 Oregon State at Arizona