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D1A Men, D1 Elite Women Join Forces For Playoffs

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D1A Men, D1 Elite Women Join Forces For Playoffs

Central Washington in action. Kevin Hall photo.

D1A rugby has announced a partnership with Women's D1 Elite to stage the top Men's and Women's national playoffs and championships together.

The dates proposed include the D1 Elite Semifinal on April 11 paired with the D1A First Round at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., and an April 25 D1 Elite Championship doubleheader with the D1A Semifinal, hosted at The Fortress in Obetz, Ohio.

D1 Elite Commissioner and Life University Women’s Head Coach Ros Chou said the partnership seemed a logical move.

"In talking with all the other D1 Elite teams, the partnership with D1A just made sense," Chou said. "Having the top tiers of collegiate rugby for women and men under one tent is exciting for the sport and Kevin Battle has welcomed us with open arms. The venues are top notch and being included in the Eleven Sports broadcasting is a move forward for women's rugby in the US."

Division 1A is the elite collegiate rugby competition sanctioned by USA Rugby. The conference-based league features 68 elite men’s college rugby teams competing in eight conferences: Big Ten, California, East, Mid-South, PAC, Red River, West, Liberty and two Independent teams. The regular season sees all teams in the conference play one another, with the competitions 16 highest ranked teams qualifying for the postseason in East and West regions. Playoffs consist of four rounds of single elimination matches leading up to the D1A National Championship match.

Division 1 Elite is the premier collegiate rugby competition within the women’s division, composed of four teams: Life University, Central Washington University, Lindenwood University and Penn State University.  Originated in 2015 to serve the needs of women’s elite collegiate rugby, D1 Elite crowns the only cross-seasonal national champion in women’s rugby.

"The D1 Elite/D1A Playoff Partnership is the next step in the evolution of the collegiate game for both men and women," said Central Washington Women's Head Coach Trevor Richards. "Both divisions have shown their genuine interest in growing the sport of rugby and the partnership we have established is the pinnacle of our game at the collegiate level. What we are seeing now is the progression and inclusion of forward-thinking coaches and administrators that want to expand opportunities for young student-athletes in this rapidly growing game."

Also supportive of the move is Lindenwood University Women's Head Coach Billy Nicholas.

“This partnership allows a larger audience to continue to grow and support the game of women's rugby. Being able to bring some of the most competitive collegiate women's and men's programs together on the same weekend will make for a great atmosphere for everyone involved. We look forward to continuing to see the number of teams and competitiveness continue to increase as we move forward.”

“It's a natural fit for two of our top-tier collegiate competitions to work together, and we’re tremendously excited about the possibilities of their partnership," added USA Rugby’s Scholastic Manager, Johnathan Atkeison. "The teams all bring energized and passionate fan bases, the players are going to have a great game-day environment experience, and for the fans it’s a chance to see even more great rugby at one location”

Could this be the beginning of more partnerships. No word on that as yet, but it seems logical that other divisions might be on the table in joining the Collegiate Rugby Association of America. And while this announcement discussed 15s, it also seems logical that we might see a meeting of the minds in 7s as well.

“It has been a goal of ours for some time to promote the finest of the men's and women's collegiate rugby together," said D1A Commissioner Kevin Battle. "These student athletes have worked tirelessly to perform at this elite level, and this partnership will allow them to showcase their skills on a grander scale. Now we need each of you, the fans to do your part,  to support these student-athletes by purchasing a ticket or tuning in to For The Fans network (FTF) and cheer on your favorite team.”

The playoff games from both divisions will be streamed LIVE on Eleven Sports Network via ForTheFans (FTF) and will be looking into continuing on growing the broadcast partnership with both divisions, hand-in-hand for the future. You can either watch live on television on Eleven Sports network (DirecTV: 623), on their website ftfnext.com, download the FTFNext app.