MANILA, Philippines – Filipino men and women have the potential to excel in the highly physical sport of rugby, according to one of the coaches of the Philippine national rugby team.
“Filipinos are built for rugby,” Philippine Volcanoes coach Expo Mejia told ABS-CBNnews.com. “They’re very good on their feet, and gifted.”
“I think the best characteristic Filipinos have is they’re very athletic, and they’re very powerful, those who train,” he added.
“I think we can definitely succeed in rugby.”
Many of the players in the current Volcanoes squad are Fil-foreigners, but Mejia believes that homegrown rugby players can soon represent the country in international competitions.
“There have been many Filipinos, people who grew up here and learned their rugby here, and eventually they will represent the Filipinos in the senior team,” he said.
Rugby for Pinays?
Even Filipino women are capable of playing and excelling in rugby, Mejia said.
“For Filipino girls to play rugby, they have to be very athletic and quite aggressive on the field,” he said. “You don’t have to be aggressive off the field, but you have to be willing to be aggressive on it.”
“I think that’s the toughest thing for some of these girls to learn. They don’t mind running and catching and passing, but when you gotta make a tackle, that’s a totally different thing,” he added.
“It takes a special kind of person to be like that, but we’re finding them. The Philippine women’s team is quite good.”
Safer than American football
Mejia also said that “rugby is a lot safer than American football.”
“(In American football), you can get hit from any direction, you can be hit without the ball,” he said. “In rugby, the only person you can tackle is the one with the ball, so you know at least where the hit is coming from.”
Rugby is becoming more popular in the Philippines partly because of the success of the Philippine Volcanoes, who are coming off a spectacular performance in last week’s Asian 5 Nations Division 1 tournament.
The Volcanoes won all their games against Singapore, Chinese Taipei and Sri Lanka. They have been promoted to the Asian 5 Nations Top 5 and still have a chance to qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in London.
“It was an incredible win. The best thing for us was to win in front of your home crowd,” Mejia said. “To have all those people at the Rizal Memorial Stadium cheering for us... the fans were fantastic, and it really helped the boys a lot.”