Ashley Matias Heward and debutant Ellis Rudder running through their paces
The Philippine Volcanoes National Men’s 15s Team will face a mammoth task as they prepare to defend their Division 1 Asia Rugby Men’s Championships title next Wednesday in Taipei.
The Volcanoes successfully became Division 1 Champions last year after defeating Singapore 38 to 12 in their final match of the series on home soil. With a promotion relegation system in place, the Volcanoes will go into the competition as Rank 1, however due to Sri Lanka’s non participation in 2018, the Sri Lankan Tuskers will be ranked 4th but will boast the highest World Ranking between the 4 nations.
“Sri Lanka technically are ahead of the Philippines on World Rugby rankings, however hopefully the momentum of this group can continue from 2018. We are ahead of both Singapore and Taipei, so our first match will be very important. The players and coaching staff have laid a strong foundation last year and have been building ever since” shared Jake Letts of Philippine Rugby.
As the Volcanoes face Sri Lanka in their opening semi final match, Singapore and Chinese Taipei play off in the second semi final. The winners of each match will progress to the Division 1 final on Saturday, June 1. The Volcanoes and the Tuskers have met five times since 2012 with Tuskers currently ahead on a 3 to 2 head-to-head record. A statistic the Volcanoes are looking to have evened up.
The Philippines will welcome back experience veterans this year Patrice Ortiz Olivier, Justin Villazor Coveney and Ashley Matias Heward to help boost their chances to defend the title. The national team will also blood potentially up to 9 debutants. A sign the union is heavily recruiting the top Philippine talent around the world.
“With a huge calendar year for the Volcanoes, national team selection is important and recruiting to the top talent will ensure this program continues to compete with the best. The coaching staff led by Stu Woodhouse have worked extremely hard over the last few months to ensure our squad is competitive to be successful” added Letts.
The Philippine Volcanoes National Men’s Team will be backed by First Pacific, MVP Sports Foundation and the Philippine Sports Commission.The matches will be played at Taipei Municipality Stadium on Wednesday May 29 and Saturday June 1.