Article by Alex Solomon | Originally published at usarugby.org
Half of the South representatives will qualify by reaching the Finals of this weekend’s regional championship event, while a pair of women’s finalists will also claim spots at this year’s Club 7s National Championship.
ATLANTA - Four teams from the South Region will qualify for the Aug. 12-13 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championship Saturday, July 22 at Southern 7s Championship in Atlanta. Half of the South representatives will qualify by reaching the Finals of this weekend's regional championship event, while a pair of women's finalist will also claim spots at this year's Club 7s National Championship.
Four separate Geographical Unions within the Southern Region - Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and True South - have awarded two men's teams entrance into the Southern 7s Championship based on local sevens competition that began in late May. On the women's side, two teams from the Carolinas, two out of Georgia, and three from Florida will make up the women's field in Atlanta.
Charlotte Rugby's men's side has been the best team out of the Carolinas this summer. Charlotte has not reached the Club 7s National Championship since 2015, but they have been one of the region's very best teams in 15s over the past few years. Southern Pines heads to Atlanta as Carolina's No. 2 seed. The squad has never qualified for a Club 7s National Championship, but is coming off of a 15s season in which it reached the Division III National Semifinals.
Two new sevens-specific squads in Georgia, Legion of Doom and Optimus, traded blows this summer on their way to earning the state's two invites to the Southern 7s Championship. Legion of Doom is only in its second year as a program and showed promise last summer, while Optimus only just originated at the beginning of this summer as another opportunity for players in the region to develop as sevens players.
Miami Rugby proved to be the best men's team out of Florida this summer, while a second- and third-place finish over the state's two qualifying events were enough to grant the Boca Raton Buccaneers to the Southern 7s Championship as Florida's No. 2 seed. Neither side has played in a Club 7s National Championship before, and will have their work cut out for them in Atlanta.
Few will be surprised that New Orleans Rugby won each of the True South's qualifying events. The team is seeking its fifth appearance to Nationals and second in a row after going 1-5 at Dick's Sporting Good in Denver last August. Joining New Orleans in Atlanta will be the Memphis Blues, which played its way into the True South's second seed at the Southern 7s Championship. The Blues have never played in a Club 7s National Championship, but did not have much trouble scoring tries during the 2016-17 15s season.
Men's Pool A:Legion of Doom, Miami, Memphis and Southern Pines
Men's Pool B:New Orleans, Charlotte, Boca Raton and Optimus
Southern Pines will be the only Southern representative with both its men's and women's teams in the championship field in Atlanta after the club's women's side finished second in the Carolinas behind the Columbia Bombshells. The Bombshells rebounded from a disappointing 15s season to win two of the three qualifiers in the Carolinas.
Florida is sending three squads to the Southern 7s Championship, and for good reason. Orlando Rugby and Phoenix Rugby have combined for three National Championship appearances over the past two years, and will have an opportunity to get back into the women's 16-team field at this year's event by reaching the Final in Atlanta this weekend. The Southern Region's 2016 Club 7s National Championship representatives were given all they could handle by the Miami Amazons - who will also be in Atlanta - during two qualifying tournaments.
After reaching the Cup Quarterfinals at Club 7s three times between 2011 and 2014, the Atlanta Harlequins have not played in the National Championship event the past two summers. The Women's Premier League team traveled to Florida in June where it beat out the rest of the field at Todd Miller 7s, and will have just as good a shot as any from the South to advance to the Club 7s Championship. The Harlequins will be joined by another Georgia side, the Savannah Shamrocks, which will make the short trip to Atlanta for the Southern 7s Championship.
Women's Pool A: Orlando, Miami, Southern Pines and Atlanta 2
Women's Pool B: Columbia, Atlanta, Savannah and Phoenix