Collegiate Rugby Championship

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

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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):

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.”

MORE: Ebner, Isles miss U.S. rugby roster for World Series finale

California notches unprecedented Collegiate Rugby Championship threepeat

California Rugby

California completed another perfect run through the Collegiate Rugby Championship to become the first school to win three CRC titles in Chester, Pa., on Sunday.

Cal beat Kutztown 17-12 in overtime in the final at PPL Park, its sixth win in as many matches in the rugby sevens tournament and 19th straight overall in CRC play dating to 2012. It knocked off Life University 33-5 in the semifinals earlier Sunday. Kutztown and Life were its final opponents in 2014 and 2013.

Cal, long the national power in the more traditional 15-a-side rugby, has now won half of the titles in the six-year history of the Collegiate Rugby Championship sevens tournament.

Rugby sevens was added to the Olympic program for the Rio 2016 Games, and it’s possible players from the Collegiate Rugby Championship may make the U.S. Olympic team, should the Americans qualify.

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WATCH LIVE: Collegiate Rugby Championship — 2 p.m. ET

California Rugby
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If California is to win an unprecedented third straight Collegiate Rugby Championship, it may have to go through the runner-up from each of the last two years.

Cal takes an undefeated mark and top seed into the final rounds of the CRC in Chester, Pa., live on NBC, NBCSN and streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra on Sunday.

NBCSN coverage runs from 2-4 p.m. ET. NBC picks it up from 4-6. Live Extra has coverage throughout the TV window.

California plays Life University in its semifinal at 3 p.m. and, if it wins, either Kutztown or Arizona in the final at 5:23. Games consist of seven-minute halves and a two-minute halftime.

Cal beat Kutztown in the 2014 championship game and Life in the 2013 title game. The CRC debuted in 2010.

The schedule, results and pool standings can be found here.

WATCH LIVE: Collegiate Rugby Championship — 2-6 p.m. ET