Volcanoes rumblin’ for SEAG blast-off

The Philippine Star

Posted at May 27 2015 10:56 AM | Updated as of May 27 2015 06:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The national men’s and women’s rugby teams, popularly known as the Volcanoes, step up their buildup for the SEA Games with the women’s squad upbeat of its chances for a grand debut in the biennial meet set two weeks from now in Singapore.

“While the men’s team had competed in the 2005 and 2007 SEAG, this is the first SEA Games appearance for us,” said Lady Volcanoes skipper Acee San Juan.

The team, handled by coach Shirley Russell, a former member of the Australia National Women’s rugby team, has been in deep training the last few weeks, including two sessions a day for at least six times per week, which the team hopes will pay off in Singapore.

“We are fitter, faster, and stronger now. The team underwent an intensive training program under the Philippine Olympic Committee which consisted of strength and conditioning, sports vision, nutrition training and even sports psychology,” said San Juan. “We also underwent Rugby Sevens-specific and national team training camps leading up to this tournament. The support we get from our coaching and management staff plus the system that we have in place now is bringing out the best in us.”

The men’s and women’s squads are actually composed of 18 players each at this stage with the coaching staff and management expected to announce the final 12-member teams before leaving for Singapore on June 3. The SEA Games Rugby Sevens tournament is slated June 6-7 at Choa Chu Kang Stadium.

The coming SEA will see the re-inclusion of Rugby Sevens since it was last played during the 2007 Games where host Thailand took the gold and the Philippines settled for silver in men’s play.

During an eight-year hiatus from the SEA Games calendar, the Rugby Sevens has enjoyed a growing popularity worldwide, with its fast pace, dynamic skill set, and exciting means of scoring, which has also elevated the sport to an Olympic event to be played for the first time at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Meanwhile, heading the men’s training squad are veterans Jake Letts, Justin Coveney, Gareth Holgate and Matt Saunders who have all seen action in the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2013 and the 2014 Asian Games with Geoff Alley, who holds an impressive resume as both a player and coach in the US and New Zealand as coach.

“This is the strongest 18 members selected since our debut in the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens,” said team captain Letts. “Our squad has the depth and experience to do very well in this tournament, however in Sevens Rugby, anything can happen. We will by no means be expecting any easy games. Every game will be tough and we aren’t taking anything for granted. It is sure to be a very competitive tournament, but we are all looking forward to the challenge of capturing the gold for our country.”

Read more on The Philippine Star (http://www.philstar.com/sports/2015/05/27/1459225/volcanoes-rumblin-seag-blast)