The Philippine Volcanoes just kicked off ts the highest level of competition it has played since its debut at the Rugby Sevens World Cup in 2013. The Philippines national rugby union team is backed by Globe Telecom.
In 2018, the Volcanoes finished third in the Asia Sevens Series, which earned the team a prestigious position in the World Series Qualifier division, which will take place at the Hong Kong Stadium at Causeway Bay in Hong Kong. Only two Asian nations have earned the right to play in this division.
On one side, the top 15 teams in the world will be playing in Round 7 of the HSBC Sevens Series, where Hong Kong will be hosting the Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. On the other side, the next best 12 teams in the world will be vying to qualify for the 2020 World Series with the champion team being promoted to the top 15 teams in the world.
The Philippine Volcanoes has been grouped with host nation Hong Kong, Tonga and Zimbabwe in the qualifier division. Team Captain Danny Bembo Matthews is optimistic about the team’s chances.
“We have played Hong Kong quite regularly in the past at the Asia Sevens Series, each year we get closer, so hopefully we can go one step further,” Matthews said. “For Zimbabwe, they have beaten us twice after the bell, so again hopefully we have the fitness to get one over them this time. For Tonga we know they are going to be a physical side so hopefully we can match them there and use speed as a difference.”
After a nine-day high intensity training camp, the Philippine Volcanoes players went to Hong Kong ready to take the field. Matthews had the honor to represent the Philippines among all captains for this weekends competitions.
“To be captain is obviously a great honor,” Matthews said. “To actually be here doesn’t happen often. Last time we were here was 2012 and we have the support of the whole Philippines behind us. We are very excited to have that”.
Head coach Frano Botica and assistant coach David Johnston have selected the top 12 players to compete for the Philippines in the World Series Qualifier. Matthews’ fellow players are Mark Mapacpac Roberts, Joe Palabay Dawson, Vincent Amar Young, Timothy Bweheni, Tim Alonso Berry, Jonico Ater Hardwick, Patrice Ortiz Olivier, Donald Canon Coleman, Ryan Reyes Howe, Justin Villazor Coveney and Robert Luceno Fogerty.
Over the last two seasons the Volcanoes have progressed from ninth in Asia to third, with a pool of national players. The coaches have selected the top 12 players from the last two years who have all played consistently strong for the national team to handle the pressure and occasion of what may be, their biggest tournament to date.
“It’s a special tournament, being part of the top 27 nations for Rugby sevens in the world will require our most elite and experienced athletes,” Philippine Rugby general manager Jake Letts stated. “In a division with teams such as Ireland, Russia, Germany and Tonga, the level is going to be extremely high, it will be an exciting challenge for the Philippines.”
Ayala Corporation chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala was a special guest at the 2019 Players Presentation at the Globe Tower. He spoke on behalf of Ayala and Globe Telecom, the headline sponsor for the Volcanoes from 2017 to 2020.
Chris Alamil Everingham is in charge of the Philippine Volcanoes players’ strength and conditioning. Steph Yee is the team’s physiotherapist.
On April 5, 2019, the Philippine Volcanoes will face Hong Kong at 13:24 and Tonga at 16:08. On April 6, 2019, the Philippine team will face Zimbabwe at 10:30.
Meanwhile, here is the Philippines vs Malaysia at the Asia Rugby Sevens Series 2018: