The Philippine National Men’s & Women’s Rugby Sevens Teams, more popularly known as the Philippine Volcanoes, are in the final stage of their preparations for next month’s Southeast Asian Games. The Men’s and Women’s training squads of 18 players each will compete for a position in the final 12-member teams to depart for Singapore on June 3 and compete in the SEA Games Rugby Sevens tournament at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on 6-7 June 2015.
The 28th Southeast Asian Games will see the re-inclusion of Rugby Sevens since it was last played during the 2007 Games where hosts, Thailand took home the Gold and the Philippines settled for Silver in the Men’s Division. During an eight-year hiatus from the SEA Games roster, the sport of 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.
“While the Men’s team competed in the 2005 and 2007, this is the first SEA Games appearance for us.” said Lady Volcanoes Captain, Acee San Juan. Coached by Shirley Russell, who is a former member of the Australia National Women’s Rugby Team, the Lady Volcanoes’ training routine includes two sessions a day, at least six times per week, which the team hopes will pay off in Singapore.
San Juan added, “We are fitter, faster, and stronger now. The team underwent an intensive training program under the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) which consisted of strength & conditioning, sports vision, nutrition training and even sports psychology. 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.”
Meanwhile, the Men’s training squad is comprised of seasoned veterans including 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. The squad also includes newer players who have experience in previous Asian Sevens tournaments. The Men’s team is coached by Geoff Alley, who holds an impressive resume as both a player and coach in the United States and New Zealand.
“This is the strongest 18 members selected since our debut in the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens” shares Men’s Captain, Jake 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 a Gold Medal for our country.”
SEA Games hosts, Singapore has invested substantially into building its Rugby profile throughout both the Southeast Asian region, as well as the greater Asian continent, with the implementation of a semi-professional program for its Rugby Sevens athletes. The hosts will be gunning for the Gold, particularly with the hometown support. Other major contenders for medals are Thailand and Malaysia, who have established themselves as fit and fast teams capable of scoring points quickly and causing upsets.
San Juan adds, “Of course all teams are aiming for Gold. But at the end of the day, we know we should focus on our strengths as a team and play to the best of our abilities. It will all come down to who wants it more. We are not coming just to participate in the Games. We are aiming to bring home a medal and give glory to the Philippines.”