Backed by Globe Telecom and the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Volcanoes National Men’s Sevens Rugby Team has selected its Top 18 for the upcoming 2019 World Series Qualifiers in Hong Kong. Taking place at the Hong Kong National Stadium on April 5-7, 2019, the event is aligned and run annually in conjunction with the Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, one of the biggest events in Asia.
Only the respective teams of the Philippines and Hong Kong are the qualifiers from Asia in the 2019 World Series Qualifiers. The latter is a 2018 Asian Games Gold Medalist while the Volcanoes secured their place in the prestigious event after finishing with a Bronze Medal in Asia for the 2018 Asia Sevens Series.
“It’s a spectacular achievement for a young Union, we have only been part of the World Rugby group since 2008,” Philippine Rugby general manager Jake Letts stated. “So, to qualify for the event for the second time, it’s a sign we are playing quality Rugby on the international scene.”
In 2018, the Volcanoes equaled its highest ranking since 2012, which was also the last time the team participated in the same event and finished on the podium in Asia. It was all confirmed in October 2018 after a string of successful performances.
In 2016, the Volcanoes found themselves ranked as low as ninth in Asia before making progressive moves forward a year later. In 2017, the team moved to sixth place and finished third place overall in 2018 for its Asian ranking.
“It’s been a long and tough road, we have had our ups and downs like any sports teams,” Letts said. “Looking back we achieved a silver medal in Asia in 2011, third place in 2012 and qualified for the World Cup in 2013. We then finished fifth in the Asian Games in 2014 then soon after finished with a Gold Medal in the Southeast Asia Games in 2015.”
“2016 was a rebuilding year with a lot of players in turnover,” Letts continued. “We found ourselves again in 2017 with a Gold Medal in the Asia Rugby Trophy Series and it’s proven now we have the talent to be back to our best.”
The Volcanoes have kept the services of National Coaches, former New Zealand All Black Frano Botica and Canadian national David Johnston to keep the progression forward. Both coaches have been with the program since 2016 and have kept loyalty to the selection for the Unions big event.
Botica and Johnston opted for 13 players from the original team that helped achieve the qualification in 2018 and added three players from the 2017 group that helped start the progression from their Gold Medal win in the Asia Trophy Series. They have also selected two shadow players into the squad.
“The coaches have kept 13 players from the 2018 group, plus adding Daniel Bembo Matthews who was the Captain in 2017 but was unavailable last year due to injury. Joining Danny in selection will be Tommy Kalaw Gilbert who was also one of our best in 2017 but also suffered a long-term injury in 2017,” Letts explained. “In addition to these two, Patrice Ortiz Oliver returns to the program after settling commitments with his professional club in Japan last year. Plus we have an exciting young Jaime Chuidian graduating from our youth program who will add a fresh new face to the group. All in all, 18 players aiming to secure their position in the top 12 for the competition.”
Starting on March 22, 2019, the Volcanoes will have an eight-day high intensity training camp for 16 players to begin with, before making a cut to 12 players for the prestigious event. Here are the 2019 World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier Squad members:
1. Christopher Arpon Bird
2. Daniel Bembo Matthews
3. Donald Canon Coleman
4. Edlen Cortez Hernandez
5. Evan Santillan Spargo
6. Jaime Sebastian Antonio Chuidian* (potential debutante)
7. Jerome Padillo Rudder
8. Joe Palabay Dawson
9. Jonico Ater Hardwick
10. Justin Villazor Coveney
11. Mark Mapacpac Roberts
12. Patrice Ortiz Olivier
13. Robert Luceno Fogerty
14. Ryan Reyes Howe
15. Tim Alonso Berry
16. Timothy Bweheni
17. Tommy Kalaw Gilbert
18. Vincent Amar Young
With Botica as the head coach and Johnston as the assistant coach, Chris Everingham will oversee the team’s strength and conditioning and performance. Steph Yee is the physiotherapist while Prexie Halabi serves as the national team’s coordinator.
Meanwhile, here is a clip featuring Globe Telecom and the Philippine Volcanoes: