WORCESTER, Mass. – The Norwich University men's rugby team will join a new conference starting this fall.
The Cadets will be moving to the Rugby Northeast Conference after spending six years as a founding member of the New England Collegiate Rugby Conference (NECRC). The Cadets had a memorable final year in the NECRC, sweeping the 15s and 7s league titles and qualifying for the USA Rugby National Tournament as well in both formats.
Norwich and Middlebury College will both be moving from the NECRC to the Rugby Northeast Conference in 2017. The Cadets and Panthers will join Providence, Bentley, Southern Conn. State, UMass Lowell, Roger Williams, St. Michael's, Bryant and Stonehill in the Rugby Northeast.
Last year, Providence, Bentley and Southern Conn. State finished in a three-way tie atop the 15s standings with a 7-1 record. Norwich beat Bentley 30-17 in the USA Rugby Division II National Tournament Sweet Sixteen in Pittsburgh last fall.
Norwich will face seven of the nine teams in the league in the regular season with the top four teams meeting on Nov. 4 and 5 at the highest seed for the Rugby Northeast Playoffs.
The Cadets will open their inaugural season in the new league on Saturday, Sept. 16 when they travel to Southern Conn. State. NU then returns home to host Roger Williams on Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. at the Dog River Rugby Pitch as part of NU Homecoming Weekend 2017.
That kicks off a stretch of three straight home matches as NU will host Saint Michael's on Sept. 30 and UMass Lowell on Oct. 7 as part of NU Parent & Family Weekend.
The Cadets finish out the regular season with trips to Bentley (Oct. 14) and Middlebury (Oct. 28), while hosting Providence on Oct. 21.
"We're looking forward to competing in a new conference with new teams on our schedule, while still maintaining our rivalry with Middlebury," said NU head coach Bob Weggler, who enters his 17th season at the helm of the program this fall. "It's also nice to be able to add another Vermont school to our schedule in St. Michael's."
Norwich is coming off an 11-1 fall 15s season where it finished third in the country, making it all the way to the USA Rugby Division II Final Four hosted in Greenville, S.C. by Furman University. The Cadets' lone loss of the fall came to eventual national champion UW-Whitewater in the semifinals. NU rebounded the next day to defeat the three-time reigning national champion Minnesota Duluth.
The Cadets also went 14-9 in the spring 7s season, finishing ninth in the country and winning the Bowl Championship at the USA Rugby Collegiate 7s National Championship in Glendale, Colo.