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Seven Fallbrook ruggers to play in girls' all-star tournament

Seven members of the Fallbrook Rugby Club will spend this weekend in Fort Lauderdale for the under-19 girls’ National All-Star Championships.

Six of the Fallbrook girls will be playing for the Southern California Griffins, one of seven regional teams which will compete in the November 21-22 tournament.

The eighth team in the tournament is USA Rugby’s under-17 national team, which includes Fallbrook High School junior Tara Burke.

“It’s pretty good,” said Fallbrook Rugby Club girls’ coach Marin Pinnell. “Fallbrook’s definitely developing as a girls’ rugby side. We have a great group.”

Fallbrook was the first high school girls’ team in San Diego County. “It’s been kind of difficult. We always have to travel to L.A.,” Pinnell said.

This year’s season for girls of high school age may include additional teams in San Diego County. “Fallbrook’s really trying to encourage that,” Pinnell said.

The trips to the Los Angeles area are more palatable as members of the Griffins, which is the all-star team of the Southern California Rugby Football Union.

This is the second season in which Fallbrook players will be part of the Griffins team traveling to the National All-Star Championships.

Last year seven Fallbrook High School girls, including Burke, were members of the Griffins team which participated in the tournament.

Pinnell is a manager for the Griffins and will also be part of the delegation to Florida this year.

Her husband, Craig Pinnell, is an assistant coach for the Griffins, whose head coach is Ravi Perera.

The Griffins team will leave for Florida tonight; the players will return November 23 while Pinnell and her husband will incorporate a vacation into their travel plans and will return November 27.

All seven Fallbrook players are expected to be starters during the tournament. Sammy Pinson will start at the “8” position, Megan Pinson will start at flank, Lauren Bell will be the starting fly half, Nicole Bell will start at scrum half, Jamie Garcia will be a starting wing, and Burke will start at outside center.

“That’s pretty cool,” Pinnell said.

Sammy Pinson is a senior at Fallbrook High School and Megan Pinson is a freshman; the sisters are both in their third season with the Fallbrook Rugby Club.

Lauren Bell, a senior at Fallbrook High, is also in her third season as a Fallbrook Rugby Club member.

Nicole Bell is a sophomore who is in her second rugby season. Garcia, a senior, is also in her second year with the Fallbrook Rugby Club.

Burke joined the Fallbrook Rugby Club in early 2008 after completing the high school basketball season.

USA Rugby girls’ under-17 national coach Bryn Chivers watched Burke at a September 19 competition in Fullerton and invited her to join the national team.

Chivers had also seen Burke during USA Rugby’s Under-20 Elite Camp which took place February 28 and March 1 at the Olympic Training Center in Clermont, FL; Chivers himself issued Burke the invitation to the Under-20 Elite Camp after watching Burke’s performance in last year’s National All-Star Championships.

“It’s getting there,” Pinnell said of the progress of Fallbrook rugby. “It’s exciting.”

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