U.S. captain Madison Hughes previews Collegiate Rugby Championship; TV schedule

Madison Hughes
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This weekend’s Collegiate Rugby Championship could be a springboard to the Olympics for the nation’s best sevens players.

Just ask the current captain of the U.S. national team, Madison Hughes, who starred in the CRC as a Dartmouth freshman in 2012, when the Big Green repeated as champion.

“The CRC played a big role in my development as a rugby player,” the London-born Hughes said while on a Manhattan media tour for Penn Mutual on Wednesday. “When I first got to college, the CRC was the pinnacle of college rugby, and it had just begun [in 2010]. A lot of my teammates were speaking about it, and then when I experienced it, I think it was really my first experience of a high-level rugby tournament.”

NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will have live coverage of the CRC from Philadelphia on Saturday (pool play) and Sunday (playoff rounds and championship):

DATE COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
Sat., June 4 Rugby Rising 1 p.m. NBCSN
  Pool Play 2-4 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Pool Play 4-6 p.m. NBC, Live Extra
Sun., June 5 Rugby Rising (Encore) 1 p.m. NBCSN
  Playoff Rounds 2-4 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Playoff Rounds 4-6 p.m. NBC, Live Extra
Wed., June 8 Pool Play* 7 p.m. CSN Philadelphia
Thurs., June 9 Pool Play* 7 p.m. CSN Philadelphia
Fri., June 10 Pool Play* 7 p.m. The Comcast Network
Pool Play* 9 p.m. The Comcast Network

*Encore presentation

After his freshman-year title, Hughes played two more CRCs with Dartmouth before focusing on his international career in his senior season. Now, Hughes is seen as one of the safest picks to be named to the first U.S. Olympic men’s rugby sevens team in Rio later this summer.

A few more of Hughes’ current teammates on rugby’s biggest global stage — the World Series — have CRC experience. The list includes Danny Barrett (University of California), Brett Thompson (Arizona) and Peter Tiberio (Arizona).

This weekend, several more Olympic hopefuls — for Tokyo 2020 — could establish themselves at the CRC.

Three-time reigning champion California will be favored for the team title, Hughes said.

“I’ve got to back my boys at Dartmouth and say that we’re going to try and regain the title,” he said. “Life [University] have been very good the last few years. Kutztown are always very good. University of Arizona have been very good as well.”

Hughes said to expect similar game play at the CRC as there will be in the Olympics, with perhaps one notable difference.

“The game’s not going to change, but the speed of the game might increase [in Rio],” he said. “Players are bigger, faster, stronger, just because you have that full-time environment where we’re training. You’ve also got a bit more tactical elements and a bit more cohesiveness among the teams. The ball will move a bit quicker in the Olympics, but it’s the same game.”

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