Rugby sevens back for more at PPL Park

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The nation's top college teams will meet at PPL Park for the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship. (Kin Cheung/AP)

As the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship opens play, the local teams will get the opportunity to test their skills against the very best early in the tournament, which takes place at PPL Park Friday through Sunday.

California, looking to defend the title it won last season, will face both Drexel on Friday and Temple on Saturday. After that, the defending champ will face Maryland as it finishes out pool play.

Not only will the Owls and the Dragons see one of the tourney favorites early, they'll also get a chance to face arguably the best collegiate player in the game in Seamus Kelly. The reigning tournament MVP, Kelly has missed a few games during the regular season because of his participation with the U.S. national team. But he will be available all weekend.

"I don't think there is any question that Seamus Kelly is the best player in college rugby," Cal coach Jack Clark said. "So it makes sense that we are a better team any time he's on the field."

Teams from Penn, St. Joseph's, Kutztown and Penn State also will participate in the tournament.

In its fifth year, the tournament has found a home at PPL Park. It has been played here for the last four years after its inaugural year in Columbus, Ohio.

The event features 20 of the top collegiate rugby teams in the country. There will be 44 matches on Friday and Saturday as teams compete for the coveted Pete Dawkins trophy.

Also competing this weekend are Arizona, UCLA, Dartmouth, Life University, Maryland, Michigan, Navy, Northeastern, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Ohio State.

jmitchell@philly.com

@JmitchInquirer