With its invitation to the Eastern College Championships in Virginia this weekend, the Harvard Rugby Team will compete with 15 other colleges to determine the best squad in the Eastern United States, and possibly earn the right to compete in the national championships.
The ruggers' lack of serious injuries, combined with their past season's record, has made the Crimson one of the pre-tournament favorites, according to Rugby Magazine publisher Ed Haggerty.
That Harvard is a favorite should surprise the tournament selection committee, who did not include Harvard in the championships until the University of Virginia withdrew from the tourney. Harvard was originally barred from the tournament based on a technicality, even though the ruggers had already defeated four of the teams picked to compete.
According to Fortune Oderhall, information director for the tournament, the 13 participating rugby unions--the governing bodies--"have had a lot of trouble determining the college champions for their area."
He adds that the umbrella union for the Eastern United States, the Eastern Rugby Union, is trying to ensure "that teams such as Harvard are not prevented from a shot at the national championship because of Catch-22s."
The top four finishers from last year--Navy, Army, Princeton, and Virginia Tech--will return to Virginia this year hoping to win a berth alongside three other regional winners around the country in the national championships in Dayton, Ohio later this spring.
Although Harvard received an invitation only three days ago and has already played five games this spring, the team will be at its strongest in recent memory, missing only hooker Rick Kief from its first team. And during the past year, the Crimson has achieved victories over four of the northern teams in the tournament: Army (by a score of 22-16), Princeton (9-6), Dartmouth (32-0), and the University of Rhode Island (52-3).
Haggerty said Army, Cornell and Harvard are probably the top three teams in the tournament.