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Carney’s Corner: Mark Carney     On Saturday, Nov. 1, the USA Men’s Rugby Team took on the New Zealand All-Blacks in a historic event at...

Carney’s Corner: Mark Carney 

   On Saturday, Nov. 1, the USA Men’s Rugby Team took on the New Zealand All-Blacks in a historic event at Soldier Field in Chicago. The sell-out crowd of over 60,000 was witness to an impressive showing from the world’s best team “” and although the USA suffered a heavy defeat, the game showcased just how far the sport has come in the USA since the early 2000’s. 

   Having a premier event at a premier facility was an extremely important stepping stone in Rugby’s growth and development. Seven of the USA team players have ties to Northern California, either playing at the high school, college or club level here. This simply reinforces the history and impact that Northern California has on the sport in the U.S..

   With pre-season practices and training getting underway here in Northern California at the youth level, we have a lot to be excited about. The season begins with U8-U12 leagues beginning in early January. The annual Sacramento Kick-Off Tournament (KOT) held at Rancho Cordova High School marks the beginning of the middle and high school season the third weekend of January. With over 42 high school-aged boys and girls being selected to All-American camps and touring teams last year, Northern California was the most represented region in the country at the highest level of competition for that age group.

   Earlier this month, the Northern California Youth Rugby Association (NCYRA) hosted two free college seminars for high school rugby players, walking our athletes through the college admissions process and highlighting what rugby-playing colleges and universities are looking for. The college game has really exploded over the last few years, with many programs now offering financial or admissions assistance to qualified student athletes. 

   This in itself is a vital step to legitimizing the sport in the U.S., and with two of the best college programs in the country right in our backyard (Cal-Berkeley and Saint Mary’s College), our youth rugby players in Northern California can feel confident that the sport will continue to offer them opportunities to play at a higher level.

   The sport of rugby continues to gain momentum as we move forward into a new season. Clubs are reporting higher registration numbers at this time over last season, an encouraging sign of things to come. With a further influx of interested parties to the sport, we can be confident that the sport will only continue to flourish in Northern California and across the rest of the country.

   If you are one of those interested parties and would like to know how to get involved, or who your local clubs are, please contact the NCYRA office at 707-693-8803 or email  HYPERLINK “” for more details.

Mark Carney is the executive director of the Northern California Youth Rugby Association. He writes for SportStars as part of the magazine’s partnership with the NCYRA.

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