NBC Sports, Penn Mutual, United World Sports extend partnership

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The NBC Sports Group, the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company and United World Sports announced Thursday an extension to their partnership through 2019. Under the terms of the deal, Penn Mutual will hold the title sponsorship to both the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship — the largest collegiate rugby event in the world — and the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup — the national championship for 15-a-side rugby.

The deal, which initially began in 2014, also includes a significantly expanded year-round presence across NBC Sports Group and UWS rugby properties, as well as dedicated coverage of the women’s Collegiate Rugby Championship final and expanded marketing connections to colleges and universities through Rhino Rugby, the official equipment and apparel provider.

“We remain bullish about rugby as both a collegiate and an Olympic property,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports & NBCSN. “2016 is going to be an exciting year for the sport, highlighted by its return to the Olympics in Rio this August. We’re thrilled to showcase the best rugby at the collegiate and international levels this year, and we believe Penn Mutual’s commitment to the CRC and Varsity Cup demonstrates rugby’s upward trend in domestic popularity in the coming years.”

This year’s men’s CRC will feature a field of teams from across the country, as well as the winners of four 2016 qualifying event. The University of California is the three-time defending champion on the men’s side.

“Our initial partnership far exceeded our expectations, and we are very excited to be able to work with UWS and NBC Sports to expand and extend our agreement,” said Eileen McDonnell, Penn Mutual’s Chairman, President & CEO. “We continue to grow our offerings and find new ways to reach the next generation of advisors and clients, and rugby has proven to be an extremely effective platform in reaching our objectives.”

Rugby Sevens returns to the Olympics for the 2016 Rio Games, following a 92-year hiatus. The United States won the last gold medal in that event at the 1924 Games, and the CRC is part of a nationwide effort to build American rugby talent in anticipation of the Games. Fifteen players who played in the CRC went on to play for the U.S. national team in the past four years.

World Rugby postponing July test matches

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World Rugby has postponed July test matches involving southern and northern hemisphere nations because of ongoing restrictions on international travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport’s international governing body issued a statement Friday saying the mid-year test window will be rescheduled when cross-border travel and quarantine regulations are relaxed.

New Zealand had been scheduled to play Wales and Scotland, Australia was set to play Ireland and Fiji and South Africa had planned to host Scotland and Georgia. World Rugby said the postponement is due “to ongoing government and health agency COVID-19 directives.”

Bill Beaumont re-elected as World Rugby chairman

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Former England captain Bill Beaumont has been re-elected as World Rugby chairman on Saturday after beating Agustín Pichot, the current vice-chairman.

The sport’s governing body says the 68-year-old Beaumont achieved a first-round majority of 28 votes to 23.

Beaumont says: “I am honored to accept the mandate of the World Rugby Council to serve as the international federation’s chairman once again.”

He begins his four-year term after a council meeting on May 12.

French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte becomes Beaumont’s new vice-chairman.