MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Volcanoes vow to go all out for the crown in the Asian Rugby Championship Division 1 tourney that blasts off today at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The top-ranked squad in the four-nation meet, the Volcanoes begin their quest at 4 p.m. against No. 4 Singapore, seeking to pull off an explosive opening performance to advance to finals set Saturday.
Second-ranked Sri Lanka and No. 3 Kazakhstan tangle in the first match at 2 p.m. to dispute the other berth to the gold medal match.
“We’re all very excited to be playing in front of a home crowd and we’re going to leave everything on the field to bring honor to the Philippines,” said outside half Oliver Saunders, captain of the first national team to play at the 20,000-seater PSS.
The Volcanoes, who are reinforced by experienced, overseas-based pros, are looking to assert their mastery against the Singaporeans, whom they defeated 37-20 in the old Asian 5 Nations Division 1 tourney that Phl hosted and ruled in 2012.
“Singapore will play a very fast, fit game. They’re a very, very fit team, they can run for 80 minutes, no problem. The advantage we have is that we’re fit but we’re also skillful; Filipinos, like Manny Pacquiao, have agility and speed,” said center Justin Coveney, who plays in Japan.
Coveney and Saunders join Austin Dacanay, Michael Duhig, Matt Bellenie, David Feeney, Ashley Heward, Terry Carrol, Benjamin Mudie, Steve Howorth, veteran Jake Letts, Harry Morris, Timothy Bweheni, Jeff Gregson, Gareth Holgate, Masayuki Sekiguchi, Phil Abraham, David Robinson-Polkey, Fred Morris, Christopher Anderson, Cleo Gomez, Daniel Matthews and Alex Aronson for this campaign.
“Our players are well-experienced overseas and even though we only had 10 days in camp, we still have our advantage. We go along well together. We have confidence in our team, we have confidence in one another that we’ll get the job done and put our best foot forward,” said Letts.
Although the Stu Woodhouse-coached Volcanoes enjoy top billing, they are not letting their guard down against rivals who had spent months preparing for the meet.
“It will not be an easy tournament for us and we will need to be at our absolute best to win,” said Saunders.
Read more on The Philippine Star