PH Volcanoes gear up for first Asia 7s tourney in two years

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 14 2021 01:17 PM | Updated as of Nov 14 2021 01:26 PM

Ian Luciano was selected as one of the four new debutants for the men's program. Norma Salinas, Austin Elite Rugby
Ian Luciano was selected as one of the four new debutants for the men's program. Norma Salinas, Austin Elite Rugby

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Volcanoes are in Dubai where they are preparing for their first international rugby sevens event since the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

This week marks Philippine Rugby's return to international competition, after the program was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic for the past two years.

"It's been a long time, but we are happy to be back and excited for a new chapter," said Jake Letts of Philippine Rugby.

The Volcanoes men's and women's teams have qualified for the 2021 Asia Sevens Series, which features only the Top 8 rugby nations across the region. The men's have featured in the series since 2017 whereas the women's gained promotion after their gold medal finish in the Asia Trophy Series in 2019.

In addition to formalizing the 2021 Asian rugby sevens rankings, the tournament will act as World Rugby's - Sevens Rugby World Cup Asian Qualifier, where the top two teams secure their slots into the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 2022. 

The Philippines Men's team achieved this in 2013, when they competed in Russia.

"It's a big tournament, not only is it the first tournament back for majority of the Asian nations, it also has a big prize if you perform well, a ticket to the Rugby World Cup," said Letts.

The Philippines has selected a new crop of talented players, with 10 of the 24 called up to make their senior international sevens debut.

"There's been minimal domestic rugby in the Philippines due to the pandemic and in addition having some of our national members unavailable for selection due to border restrictions, it has opened the opportunity for some exciting and talented new players to be recruited to put their best foot forward," Letts explained.

Though local rugby had to be halted, the Volcanoes were able to embark on a global recruitment drive during the pandemic -- a strategy to ensure the Union continues to develop despite the tough restrictions the country has had during COVID.

The national program welcomes back Head Coach Fetala'i Taua'a for the women's team after an extremely successful 2019 season securing a gold medal at the Asia Trophy Series and the country's first Silver at the 2019 SEA Games. 

On the men's side, a new coaching staff steps into the program with former Philippine Volcano Josh Sutcliffe, who is the current Head Coach of Stanford Rugby, selected to lead the program with another former Volcano Austin Dacanay assisting the men's.

"We welcome Josh and Austin back into the program. Both have represented the Volcanoes in the past. Josh has had a great depth of experience with USA Rugby along with leading the Stanford rugby program for the last 5 years," said Letts.

"Austin's experiences with the 15s will also no doubt benefit this playing group. Coach Fitz for the women's will also be looking to take off where the program finished in 2019," he added.

The Philippines has selected the following 24 athletes to represent the Volcanoes at the upcoming Rugby World Cup 7s 2022 Asia Qualifier.:

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The competition kicks off on November 19 and 20 and Dubai Sports City.

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