The Philippine Volcanoes recently arrived home after ten days in Dubai, finishing the Asian Sevens Series in eighth place. With some close results, the team remains optimistic after a two year absence.
"We knew from the start it was going to be a difficult task, after a two year absence, a short preparation period and a high number of new players at this level our goal was to show Philippine Rugby is back and to blood some new talent at the highest level,” shared Jake Letts of Philippine Rugby.
The Volcanoes put forward ten debutants and featured a total of three players from each program that competed in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games where the team secured Gold in the men's and Silver in the women’s.
“It was great to have some quality players return back into the program, who performed well. Kai Ledesma Stroem returned after a four year absence from the national team. He’s been playing professionally in Japan so it was great to have him back and lead the team from the front. Up and coming Ysabel Del Fierro who has represented our First Pacific U18s team in the past also made her debut at the senior level, great to see her come through the youth program also and showcase she belongs in the senior level,” Letts added.
Both teams remained competitive against rivals Malaysia and Sri Lanka, however there was still a significant gap between the top four teams in Asia featuring powerhouses Japan, Hong Kong and Korea. Hong Kong and Korea finished in the top two for the men’s with China and Japan for the women’s.
"The top teams in Asia you could tell had their strongest squad available and were obviously battle hardened before the tournament, they have had the luxury to play together in international competitions throughout COVID. We haven’t had that yet, we will need at least another 12 months before we can get back to the same level of play we were playing at in 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic hit,” Letts added.
The Volcanoes women’s team were on a high in 2019, finishing with a Gold Medal finish at the 2019 Asia Trophy Series as well as a Silver Medal at the SEA Games. The Volcanoes men’s team also had two strong years in 2018 and 2019, recording a third place finish in Asia in 2018 and a Gold Medal at the SEA Games in 2019.
The silver lining for the competition was to see Asia Rugby competitions back on the international arena. It had been 23 months since the Philippine team competed in an international event. The 2022 calendar is looking promising, possibly featuring a total of at least five competitions for each of the men’s and women’s at the top level. Philippine Rugby will be looking to hopefully get back to where the calendar was in 2019.
“For 2022 we are looking at both 15s and 7s, so that includes the annual Asia Rugby Championships, as well as three legs of the Asia Sevens Series along with the Asian Games. We also want to ensure our National Development Programs and domestic competitions are re-launched to ensure our entire rugby community can return to the field,” Letts shared.
Philippine Rugby are in the process of announcing their 2022 domestic calendar, with a sharp focus on preparation before playing full contact rugby again. The union will be scheduling a series of Touch Rugby festivals before any contact rugby is back. Clubs are also expected to start their official training sessions to ensure the players and teams are game ready come the launch of the season in 2022.
“Our member Club teams will focus on a specific Return to Play Training Framework, then we are looking at Touch Rugby Festivals before contact competitions are launched. With a goal to start contact in late March/April if all goes smoothly,” Letts added.
The union will host it’s AGM on 14th of December 2021 to outline their plan of returning to the field under the new normal of COVID-19.
The headline partners of the national women's program is supported by MVP Sports Foundation via First Pacific, with the Men's via Globe Telecom. Both programs are also supported by Philippine Sports Commission as they begin their preparations and lead up to the Asian Games in 2022.
For more information on rugby in the Philippines, you can visit their website www.philippines.rugby
Stay connected with us!