MANILA, Philippines – After eight years of waiting, the Philippine Volcanoes are ready and raring to go for the gold in the 28th Southeast Asian Games rugby competitions, which opens at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium in Singapore on Sunday.
"We are confident that the team will win a medal, and (we) are hoping for a gold especially in the men's division," said Philippine Rugby Football Union head Aaron Briddon on Wednesday, a day after the men's and women's rugby squads arrived in Singapore.
The Filipino rugby exponents bagged a silver medal in the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand, the last time that the event was held in the regional sportsfest. They then placed fifth in last year's Asian Games in Incheon, and are currently ranked second in Southeast Asia.
Briddon considers defending men's rugby champion Thailand and hosts Singapore as their primary rivals for the gold medal.
Among those back in harness is Filipino-British actor and model Andrew Wolf, who was a member of the first Philippine men's rugby squad that won silver in Thailand.
Reinforcing the Volcanoes for their SEAG stint are siblings Benjamin, Oliver, and Matthew Saunders, and Gareth Holgate and Jake Letts. These players had skipped the recent Asian Rugby Sevens held back home due to their respective jobs abroad.
The women's rugby squad, meanwhile, is also hoping to do well as it makes its SEA Games debut, helmed by Australian Shirley Russell.
"These girls have been training for 10 weeks, and I have been an involvement for eight weeks," said Russell, a former national team member and coach of the Australian women's national team that won the inaugural World Cup Rugby Sevens in Dubai.
"The girls have trained very hard and (they are) very determined. They have a passion for the game," she said. "We expect our team to be competitive. We should medal."
Both men's and women's rugby squads swing into action on Sunday, a day after the opening ceremonies at the Singapore National Stadium.
The Volcanoes have a tough schedule as they play Thailand, Singapore and Cambodia on opening day, while their women's counterparts tackle Laos and Singapore.
The top two squads after the single-round series in both divisions will battle for the gold medal.