Rugby Greats Brian Hightower, Gareth Rees, Colin Hawley and Phaidra Knight Lead ESPN's Coverage of This Weekend's Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia, to Be Carried Live on ESPN2, ESPNEWS and ESPN+

This weekend, the 2018 Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship returns to Talen Energy Stadium in suburban Philadelphia, and for the first time, the competition will be carried live on ESPN2, ESPNews and the new ESPN+ direct-to-consumer streaming service.

The lead announcers for this weekend’s ESPN coverage of the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship are veteran Olympic Rugby 7s analyst Brian Hightower and Gareth Rees, both of whom led the broadcasts of the HSBC Sevens World Series from Las Vegas earlier this year. 

A former USA Sevens captain and USA Rugby World Cup participant, Hightower is currently an analyst and commentator for ESPN and Pac 12 Networks, calling various rugby games. In addition to his broadcast work, Hightower is a freelance journalist and feature writer, providing event-based coverage, editorial content and in-depth features for sports publications and websites. A 1992 graduate of the College of William & Mary, Hightower currently resides in Carbondale, Colo.

A veteran of four Rugby World Cups, Rees is a Victoria native travelled halfway around the world to make a name for himself in rugby, enjoying two highly successful spells with Wasps in England either side of a three-season stay at Newport in Wales, where he set a new seasonal club record of 398 points in 1995-96. During his time at Keeble College in Oxford, he won two Blues.  Rees’ 13-year international career also spanned the amateur and professional eras. From his debut against the USA in 1986, the burly fly-half went on to become Canada's all-time leading scorer with 491 points from 55 test match appearances, a landmark that stood for 14 years. In his last international, against Namibia at RWC 1999, Rees kicked a then individual record of 27 points in a match. He also captained Canada in 25 matches. He continues to be a driving force for Canadian rugby in his role as National Program Manager and is in the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

Joining Hightower and Rees on the broadcasts are sideline reporters Colin Hawley and Phaidra Knight

Hawley is an American rugby union wing. Hawley was brought into the USA Eagles Player Pool and began playing for the US national team while he was still in college. He made his test debut against Georgia in June 2009. He also played with the USA national rugby union team on their 2010 Autumn tour. Hawley played for the US National Team in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Hawley has played with the US national sevens team in several tournaments. US national sevens team Captain Chris Wyles has called Hawley "the next big thing" in USA rugby. Hawley signed a contract to play for the US national rugby sevens team in January 2012 and had been a full-time player under contract for the US since then.

Knight, who will double as an analyst for the women’s games this weekend in Philadelphia, is a retired rugby union player who was a member of the United States national team from 1999–2017. She participated in the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2002, 2006, and 2010, and won All-World Team honors in the first two World Cups. She was named USA Rugby's Player of the Decade in 2010. On October 26, 2017, World Rugby announced that she would be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame on November 10 of that year, with the ceremony held at the Hall's facility in Rugby, England.

The live television coverage schedule will be as follows:

•            Saturday, June 2: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2

•            Sunday, June 3: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2

•            Sunday, June 3:  2 p.m. – 5 p.m. ET on ESPNews.

All the other matches featured in-stadium will be covered live on ESPN+, the first-ever multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from The Walt Disney Company Direct-to-Consumer & International segment in conjunction with ESPN.

Fans can now subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) and, in addition to hundreds of rugby matches annually, can stream thousands of additional live events, on-demand content and original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks.

United World Sports, the owners of the largest and most successful annual rugby events in the United States including the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, announced last month a new expanded agreement with ESPN to carry the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, the national title event for men’s and women’s college Rugby 7’s.

ESPN began its expanded coverage of rugby in the United States with the HSBC Sevens World Series from Las Vegas the first weekend of March. Nearly 70,000 fans were on hand to see the USA Eagles win the event for the first time in history.

The 2018 Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship will mark the eighth consecutive year that the event has been held in Philadelphia and at Talen Energy Stadium. (The first year of the event was held in Columbus, Ohio.)

Over 30,000 fans are expected to attend the three-day rugby event, which is one of the largest gatherings of collegiate and high school rugby teams in the world. Penn Mutual is in the fourth year of a title sponsorship for the event.

The annual event features the nation’s top 24 men’s collegiate rugby 7s teams, the top 16 women’s teams, a regional competition with a six-team field vying for a spot in next year’s main bracket; the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) national championship; and a national high school tournament with both boys’ and girls’ teams. 

The 24-team men’s field features America’s best teams, including: Air Force, Arizona, Arkansas State, Army, Boston College, Dartmouth, Delaware, Eastern Washington, Indiana, Iona, Kutztown, Life, Lindenwood, Maryland, Mount Saint Mary’s, Navy, Notre Dame, Penn State, Saint Joseph’s, South Carolina, Temple, UCLA, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin.

The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship trophy is named after the All-American football standout at West Point who won the Heisman Trophy in 1958.  Army General Pete Dawkins was a Rhodes Scholar and attended Oxford, where he used his outstanding football skills to make him a star on the Oxford Varsity rugby team, revolutionizing the game in the process.

This year, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster (and former National Security Advisor) will present the Pete Dawkins Trophy to the winner of the 2018 Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship. 

The men’s most valuable player will receive the Mark Dombroski Most Valuable Player Trophy, named in honor of the late Saint Joseph’s rugby player who passed away in March.

Leading the women’s national championship field this summer is two-time defending women’s champion Life University, which captured their second crown last June with a 17-12 victory over Lindenwood University.  Lindenwood also returns for the 2018 competition, along with Bloomsburg, Boston University, Clemson, Delaware, Drexel, East Stroudsburg, Kutztown, Navy, Notre Dame, Penn State, Temple Virginia, Virginia Tech, and the NSCRO Selects squad, an all-star team chosen from the best of NSCRO’s 7 teams, round out the 16-team field.

The interest in Rugby Sevens (also known as Sevens Rugby) continues to grow after the return to the Olympic Games in 2016, following a 92-year hiatus. The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship is America’s national sevens championship and serves as the centerpiece of a nationwide effort to build American rugby talent for competition on the International stage. Over the past eight years, the event has produced over 31 players who have gone on to play for the U.S. National teams.

Reserved and Field Level tickets to the World’s Largest Collegiate Rugby Festival are available online at sevensrugby.com.  Single day reserved tickets are $90 and field level tickets are $63, and full weekend reserved tickets are $132 and field level tickets are $79.

 About United World Sports: 

United World Sports (UWS) is the largest commercial rugby entity in the United States, and the owner and operator of a growing portfolio of dynamic sports, media and apparel brands including, the USA Sevens Rugby international tournament, the largest professional rugby event in North America and the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, the premier college 7s rugby championship. Through its apparel division, UWS owns the exclusive North and South American license for Rhino Rugby, one of the world's leading rugby apparel and equipment brands. UWS also owns and operates RugbyToday.com, the largest and most widely read media destination dedicated to American rugby. Additional information is available at http://www.unitedworldsports.com.

About Penn Mutual: 

Since 1847, Penn Mutual has been committed to helping people live life with confidence. At the heart of this purpose is the belief that life insurance is central to a sound financial plan. Through our network of trusted advisers, we are dedicated to helping individuals, families and businesses achieve their dreams.  Penn Mutual supports its advisers with retirement and investment services through Hornor, Townsend & Kent, Inc. Registered Investment Advisor and wholly owned subsidiary. Member FINRA/SIPC.  We are proud to work together in a values-driven and relationship-based culture. Visit Penn Mutual at www.pennmutual.com.

About ESPN+:

ESPN+ is the first-ever multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International segment in conjunction with ESPN. It offers fans thousands of additional live events, on-demand content, and original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks. This includes hundreds of MLB, NHL, and MLS games, Grand Slam tennis, Top Rank boxing, PGA Tour golf, college sports, international rugby, cricket, the full library of ESPN Films (including 30 for 30), and more. Fans can subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year).

ESPN+ is an integrated part of the completely redesigned ESPN App. Already the leading sports app, the new ESPN App is the premier all-in-one digital sports platform for fans and is a showcase of the company’s culture of innovation. With a richer, increasingly more personalized experience, the new ESPN App curates all of ESPN’s incredible content into an experience unique to each fan’s individual tastes. ESPN+ is also available through ESPN.com.

Media Contacts for Penn Mutual CRC:

Joe Favorito, 201-746-0005, fatherknickerbocker1@yahoo.com

Jim DeLorenzo, 215-266-5943, jim@jhdenterprises.com

Source: Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship

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