The Volcanoes development team in the United Kingdom takes the field once again this Saturday for the Cheltenham 7s. The national development side aim to build on their performance from the Macclesfield 7s where the team featured seven capped national players and six new squad members. The Volcanoes have been named in Pool A, alongside St. Paul Swordfishes, Patriots, Stags 7s and two additional teams.
The Philippine heritage team retain six players from the first tournament opening up a further six positions for new members to join the team. “For this tournament opportunities have opened up for some new players to join our growing squad, I look forward to seeing them represent the jersey proudly” Vince Amar Young, Team Leader for the program shared.
Strong performances from youngsters Raphael Conception Barberis and Craig Bayer Wallace see them selected for their second straight tournament. Joining the young team include former U19 representatives Owen Gasgonia Wakeham, Kian Dela Isla Mullholland and Mike San Lorenzo Bradwell. “It’s great to see players we had involved in our National Youth Programs a few years ago back playing for the national program again. It’s exactly the purpose we set the program up for, to be able to have Filipinos playing rugby in the pandemic where they are able to” Jake Letts CEO of Philippine Rugby shared.
The Volcanoes kick off their first match at 9:20 AM vs. the Patriots, followed by an additional three games before the finals. “Hopefully we can get some momentum from our first game; having six players from Macclesfield 7s should help us for this competition. Adding some additional youth to the team we are looking to play some exciting rugby” Young added.
Philippine Rugby are still dealing with the challenges of playing rugby domestically, with the new delta variant posing additional restrictions that have been brought back to major cities. “It’s obviously not ideal for our local rugby community, we will continue to stay active in the community largely though online activities with players and clubs, as well as training and education courses which also start this weekend” Letts shared.
Then following players will represent the Philippine team for the Cheltenham 7s a Newlands Park, Southam Ln:
1. Raphael Concepcion Barberis
2. Craig Bayer Wallace
3. Lucas Pablo Hill
4. Kian Dela Isla Mullholland
5. Rafael Dian Zappia
6. William Obenieta Anderson
7. Chris Monponbanua Ramones
8. Owen Gasgonia Wakeham
9. Charles Amistozo Warren
10. Jeff Patrick De Gracia Ninalga
11. Justine Palacio Catubig
12. Mike San Lorenzo Bradwell
Vincent Amar Young
Mathew Orag Bellenie
Renowned New Zealand All Black and former National 7s Coach for the Philippines Frano Botica continues to support Rugby in Asia. Botica will link New Zealand's 2021 North Harbour Premiership Champions North Shore Rugby Club as a training hub for current and future Philippine Rugby players.
The former All Black contributed to the national team's rise through the Asia Sevens Series taking the Volcanoes from 10th in Asia in 2017 to qualifying for the World Sevens Series Qualifier two years later at Hong Kong.
“Frano along with his team helped forge a strong period for our national men's sevens program, we finished as high as third in Asia, played at the Hong Kong Sevens via the Qualifier as well as won Gold at the Southeast Asian Games” Jake Letts CEO of Philippine Rugby shared.
Botica’s next involvement however will be more focused and specific to Filipino players living nearby his hometown and in the city of Auckland.
“It’s great for both Philippine Rugby and any Filipinos living in Auckland to have access to a national program such as the Volcanoes in their own backyard. The Coleman brothers of our club are of Philippine heritage, all are skilled Rugby players and seeing them represent both North Shore and the Philippines has been special. Donald was also recently selected in North Harbour's NPC team which shows you the calibre of players Philippine Rugby has around the country” Botica added.
The Volcanoes are targeting Philippine communities abroad with a focus to drive development and participation amongst the countries battle with the Coronavirus. With rugby participation still on hold for the vast majority of the country, the talent identification and recruitment day will allow for live face-to-face coaching which has been virtually non-existent in the Philippines due to the pandemic.
“It’s important for our Union to be engaged and supporting rugby players where possible, our exposure with face-to-face coaching in the Philippines remains limited due to government restrictions so we are calling on experienced members of our community to develop our players and ensure the sport remains active. That means we need to stay relevant globally, as domestically we still face a number of challenges” shared Letts.
The Volcanoes boast top-level talent from New Zealand, already securing a number of quality players within their programs. "Currently in our team we have the likes of Donald, plus Ryan Reyes Howe, Joe Palabay Dawson, Nick Gaffud Robertson, Simon Gabion Sheehan and David Robinson-Polkey. All players were recruited from New Zealand, we hope to unearth further talent with this partnership" Letts added.
The talent identification and recruitment days remain a key strategy for 2021. Recently Philippine Rugby announced a partnership with Brothers Rugby Club – Brisbane. Securing a partnership with the North Harbour champions is another positive step forward for the Union in what has been a challenging landscape due to COVID-19.
The event will be on Sunday, August 29 at North Shore Rugby Football Club at 11:30 AM. It will be open to all Filipino players based in Auckland and across New Zealand. A registration sheet will be posted on both social media and the Union's website to track participants. Philippine Rugby aims to formalise Rugby partnerships globally, not only Australia & New Zealand, but also across Asia in Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, & UAE, as well Europe and the USA and Canada.
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Philippine Rugby are proud to announce a Rugby partnership with one of Australia’s premier sporting clubs, Brothers Rugby Club - Brisbane. The partnership is the first of a number of partnerships Philippine Rugby will endeavour to secure outside of the countries homeland.
As the pandemic continues to have a drastic effect on the game locally, Philippine Rugby will increase their focus on rugby activities abroad to ensure development programs continue to drive towards participation and development. One of the strategies the Union has adopted in 2021 is to target Philippine communities abroad that have returned to the field, with a focus on players that have links to established clubs. “There’s around 20,000 Filipinos residing in the greater Brisbane area, a heartland for rugby talent. We aim to target Filipinos who are playing rugby and residing anywhere within the state of QLD” Jake Letts CEO of Philippine Rugby shared. Brothers has already played a role in developing four Volcanoes in the past, namely Michael and Francis Estrada Duhig, as well as Andrew Pagalilauan Ramsden and Robert Benitez McCafferty. Former Volcano Michael Estrada Duhig played rugby at Brothers for over a decade, paving the way for a connection to the established club. “Both Brothers and the Volcanoes have a special place in my heart, it’s great to be able to connect two great establishments to help drive rugby growth and continue to build the brotherhood” shared Duhig.
Brothers Rugby Club - Brisbane is known for being at the forefront of rugby innovation drawing players, supporters and volunteers from all corners of Australia the world. A club driven by family values is exactly what has contributed to the support Brothers will provide for both Philippine Rugby, as well as Asia Rugby as a whole. “As a community club Brothers have both the values system, the resources and the facilities to help support attracting top level rugby talent in the area. We are excited to not only be associated, but also remain in partnership in years to come. We hope to repay the favour in the future, offering a unique rugby location for Brothers to travel to and play in a post-pandemic world” Letts added.
The Talent Identification and Recruitment Day (TIRD) will invite and target all past, present and future Filipino players to congregate to not only connect, but also have an opportunity to be assessed by National Coaches Stu Woodhouse and Fitz Taua’a who both represent the National Men’s and Women’s program. The two hour training session will have the players showcase their skillset as well as have an opportunity for new players to make an impression to secure selection in future national competitions. The session is open to all youth, age grade and open players allowing all players to have access to Philippine Rugby pathways.
The date of the TIRD is scheduled for Sunday, September 26 at 11:30 AM at the Brothers home field. It will be open to all Filipino rugby players based in QLD. A registration sheet will be posted on both social media and the Unions website to track participants. The partnership with Brothers showcases what rugby stands for, a sport for all, true to its values.
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With the pandemic consistently affecting Rugby participation in the Philippines and across Asia, Philippine Rugby has adopted a key strategy to ensure Rugby remains active within the organisation. The Volcanoes have a unique position as a number of players are based both within the country as well players based abroad. The pandemic has provided alternative ways to develop a global pool of players and the Union will now lean towards investing in participation outside traditional national and international competitions.
“Covid-19 has had a drastic effect on our game both domestically and globally. We have identified some countries are in a position to handle the pandemic better than others. This allows an opportunity to invest in a global pool of players to play abroad whilst also wearing and representing the nation in Philippine colours” CEO Jake Letts shared.
The Volcanoes traditionally play in 10 international events each year across both the men and women's programs. The last time the national programs played was in December of 2019, the men won gold and the women secured silver in the Southeast Asian Games. “It’s been 18 months and our players haven’t been able to return to the field as a national program so we are looking at alternative ways to keep their combinations together as well as have new opportunities for new players to represent our national colours” Letts added.
This weekend the Volcanoes Development team will field 12 athletes who are under their global pool of players. Each athlete is Filipino by blood and lives and resides within the United Kingdom and is therefore allowed to play contact sports. The program will be backed by Union sponsors and partners to ensure Rugby participation remains active for Philippine Rugby. The Volcanoes Development team is in Pool C alongside Burton RUFC, North Wales Exiles, and the Sons of Lazarus. The Macclesfield 7s is an invitational rugby sevens competition that allows a mix of teams to register to play in the competition.
“Our players are super excited for this weekend, we cannot wait to represent the Philippines, and to do so in the United Kingdom is a first. I have played alongside a number of the players, it’s also great to see some new faces in the team” Philippine Volcano Vincent Amar Young shared. The team will feature additional capped Volcanoes including Christopher Arpon Bird, Sam Aquino Callaghan and Luc Villalba Smith. It will also feature Junior Volcano representatives Craig Bayer Wallace, Raphael Concepcion Barberis alongside Chris Monponbanua Ramones who all featured in the U19 National Programs in the past. Some new faces to the program include Richie Mabugat Lewis, William Obenieta Anderson, Charles Amistozo-Warren, Nathan Mirote Bellenie and Lucas Pablo Hill. This competition will be the first of four competitions the Volcanoes Development team will enter across the sevens season and see additional players eligible for selection.
On a domestic front, Philippine Rugby are still trying to find the best way for the game to return. The Union has an uphill battle with all community team sports still prohibited by government restrictions. “It’s been very difficult for all sports to return in the pandemic. Our Union is looking at alternative ways to ensure our locally based players do see the field as a team at some point this year. We have looked at bubble concepts with local clubs, we are also looking at sanctioned international competitions where Philippine-based players can travel to play if given permission to do so” Letts added.
The Macclesfield 7s will be played on July 10 at Priory Park Macclesfield. The Volcanoes will play at 11:00 AM against Burton RFC, 12:00 PM against Sons of Lazarus and 1:00 PM against North Wales Exiles. The finals will be from 2:00 PM onwards.
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Just last weekend two iconic sports competitions took place and you can immediately notice the impact of a global Philippine community. On one side Marcus Smith a British Filipino and the eldest brother of Philippine Volcano Luc Smith, played a monumental role in the Harlequins FC victory over Exeter Chiefs for the 2021 Gallagher Rugby Premiership. The Harlequins secured the title with a 40 to 38 win with Smith playing a pivotal role. On the other side Payne Haas a Samoan, Swiss-Filipino helped the NSW Blues secure the 2021 State Of Origin Shield. Haas has ties to the Philippine National Rugby League team the Philippine Tamaraws where he previously represented the Tamaraws as a 16 year old for their junior representative team. Both competitions feature the worlds top players in each code, playing for the most iconic trophies.
Witnessing mixed raced Filipino top level talent perform at the highest stage isn’t new, however it does make a positive impact to aspiring Filipinos who also are looking to make their own mark in their chosen sport. Up and coming Filipino Rugby players, both locally and abroad aspire to play at the highest level and witnessing others do so is a boost to their ambitions.
“It’s always great to see both Marcus and Payne excel, both incredibly talented players and showcasing there is a global Philippine community. These players inspire others who have had similar upbringings, playing both Rugby and Rugby League with either one or both parents being Filipino” says Jake Letts, CEO of Philippine Rugby.
Filipino athletes having access to top line coaching from a young age makes a significant difference to their personal skill development. In addition being nurtured in a pathway and system that fosters youth development will ensure their skills are being tested against the best in their age group. All in all, this allows their development to shine when they hit their peak performance stage.
“You can immediately tell when a player possesses raw skill and is exposed to quality coaching and quality Rugby. Take for example Luc Smith, Marcus’s brother, both have been through the systems of quality Rugby programs and both are playing at the top level for their respected teams” added Letts. Luc was part of the Philippines Gold Medal Southeast Asian Games team was also selected as the teams top player for that competition. Replicating that coaching pathway on the local stage is what Philippine Rugby aim to achieve in the future. “If we can continue to get top coaches teaching our local coaches and local players, that benefits the whole Rugby community. As a Union we adopt the World Rugby Coaching Courses which start again at the end of July, we also recruit top coaches to coach our elite national programs to ensure we are consistently surrounded by the ever changing landscape of coach education and training” added Letts.
Filipinos love to see other Filipinos do well, it doesn’t matter if they are a quarter, half or full blooded. Being proudly Pinoy is a unique trait, one that represents all who have Philippine blood running though their veins. It’s not only the bloodline that connects someone who is proudly Pinoy for the Volcanoes, it is also evident in residents who call the Philippines home, they too share this unique feeling. Philippine Resident players who are selected to represent the Philippines elect to choose to play for the Philippines, as they to also share the feeling of ‘proudly Pinoy’. “We have a number of resident based players, who qualify to play for Philippine Rugby because they have called the Philippines home. Two players in our current program have lived in the Philippines for over a decade, and couldn’t be more prouder to represent the Philippines and see Filipinos succeed on the world stage” Letts shared.
Philippine Rugby will continue to see Filipinos playing Rugby overseas, even if Rugby still has sometime to return in their home country because of the pandemic. The Volcanoes Development team will start their 7s Development competitions in the United Kingdom next weekend, playing at the Macclesfield 7s on July 10. The Volcanoes have up to 30 players in their global pool of players, who all live and reside in the United Kingdom. The players are proud to wear the colours of the Philippines and are proud to be Pinoy.
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