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Carolina Ruggerfest Massive Celebration of HS and Youth

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Carolina Ruggerfest Massive Celebration of HS and Youth

Put simply, the 2018 edition of Carolina Ruggerfest being held in Matthews, a small town just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, is massive.   The tournament, for its 15 year history, has always been an early season friendly for youth and high school teams.    Already a large event in years past, this time around they will break all their own records.   Here’s a look, just by the numbers:

  • 77 total teams entered
  • 40 rugby clubs represented
  • 121 matches scheduled on 6 fields over 2 days
  • Approximately 1,800 youth and high school rugby players participating
  • More than 7,000 spectators expected
  • 24 varsity HS boys teams, 14 varsity HS girls teams, 10 junior varsity HS boys teams, 12 varsity boys middle school teams (14U), 3 varsity girls middle school teams (14U), 8 co-ed junior varsity middle school teams 912U), 6 co-ed Prep teams (10U)
  • Each teams plays 3 or 4 matches depending on division
  • 13 divisions
  • 12 States represented (NC, SC, FL, GA, TN, VA, MD, OH, IN, NJ, PA, IL)

Ultimately, Carolina Ruggerfest will end up being one of the largest, perhaps the largest youth and high school tournaments in the US in 2018.    Ironically, a few years ago, organizers feared the tournament might die off – that was the year that USA Rugby Vegas 7s moved a week later – the same weekend as Ruggerfest.    Due to many factors, Carolina Ruggerfest cannot change dates – so the fear was it would shrivel and die with such a large profile 7s even happening the same weekend.    The opposite has happened.

Generally speaking, early March is the beginning of 15s for most school age clubs.   The vast majority of teams do not send athletes to be part of high school high performance 7s teams going to Vegas and the few that do, maybe send 1-5 players at most.   In practice, Carolina Ruggerfest actually benefitted from sharing a weekend with Vegas 7s – it is a prime 15s weekend when most everything else other than Vegas 7s is shut down in the rugby universe.

For the majority of teams attending Ruggerfest, the tournament in the Carolinas is an important on as teams are just starting or about to start their season.  It allows teams multiple out-of-league matches to evaluate, tweak, and compete to get a great assessment of where they stack up compared to many other teams.   Carolina Ruggerfest Commissioner, Erik Saxon, says he credits three factors for the tournaments value and continued growth.

“First, there is a high concentration of pretty good youth rugby teams at all levels in and around Charlotte – teams know right off the bat that no matter what, there is good opposition here – n one wants to drive hours to be disappointed or face a cancellation.”

“Next, I’d say it’s about our track record, venues, and plain old southern hospitality   We know what we’re doing; things are simple and organized; we’ve got lots and lots of all-weather, full-sized field space; we love doing this and hosting teams from all over.  We get a lot of return visits and good word-of-mouth advertising as a result.”

“Lastly, and we all know this is a big one, weather.   A trip south for northern teams means mid-60s, sunny skies, and even if it does sprinkle – we play on-all weather field turf.   Taking weather OUT of the equation allows teams to lock us in as a definitive fixture they can always count on regardless of what shenanigans Mother Nature has up her sleeve.”   

While the majority of teams will be involved in tournament only, friendly type matches – there is a lot on the line during Carolina Ruggerfest for one group of teams.    The Mid-South Independent Rugby League (MSIRL) use the tournament to play league matches.   11 of the 12 teams in the high performance regional league will be in action over the weekend.   Unlike the other teams taking part – the MSIRL matches are a full 70 minutes and teams have only one match per day.   (tournament teams play 40 minute matches in order to be able to play 2 matches per day and stay under the USA Rugby guideline of no more than 90 minutes of play per day for HS players).

For a complete list of teams playing, live scoring, local news coverage clips of the event, and much more – please visit the tournament website: www.CarolinaRuggerfest.org

The tournament is put on by North Carolina Youth Rugby Union – the youth SBO for the state.   The non-profit uses profits from the event to fund its growth and operation for the next year.  They are a volunteer organization.