The Coastal Dragons Rugby club aims to prove itself on a bigger stage.
Fourteen of the Encinitas-based club’s top players recently traveled to the Las Vegas Invitational, taking place from March 3-5. The Dragons team playing in Las Vegas is made up of high school juniors and seniors from North County.
Coach Edward Petersen said this is the club’s first time playing in the tournament, where they’ll face off against the best high school players across the nation.
"We feel like we have amazing players and will be competitive," Petersen said during a club practice March 1 at Cardiff Sports Park.
Petersen said by taking part, club players will be exposed to an elite level of rugby.
"If you’re going to test yourself, test yourself there," Petersen said.
He added another benefit of participating is that university coaches will be there to scout rugby talent.
On that note, player Patrick French said the tournament is "a huge opportunity for a lot of guys who haven’t been noticed at the higher levels to get their names out there."
"And it’s a good opportunity to spread rugby locally," said French, who also plays on the La Costa Canyon High School team.
The Las Vegas Invitational features rugby sevens, a faster version of conventional rugby, with 14-minute matches (versus 80 minutes) and seven players per side (rather than 15). It’s held in connection with the 2016 USA Sevens international rugby tournament, featuring the world’s best rugby players.
Petersen said rugby is the fastest growing U.S. sport, a trend that has played out locally. Coastal Dragons Rugby, founded in 2009, has gained quite a few players over the years, he said. It now has U8 through U18 divisions.
Visit coastaldragonsrugby.com to learn more.