The Philippine Volcanoes will face a mammoth task as they prepare to defend their Division 1 Asia Rugby Men’s Championships title. The men’s 15s team of the Philippine national rugby union team will face their Sri Lankan counterpart called the Sri Lankan Tuskers in the Asia Rugby Championship 2019’s opening semi-final match at the Taipei Municipality Stadium in Taipei, Taiwan on May 29, 2019.
In 2018, the Philippine Volcanoes successfully became Division 1 Champion after defeating Singapore 38 to 12 in their final match of the series on home soil. With a promotion relegation system in place, the Philippine national rugby union team will go into the competition as Rank 1.
Due to Sri Lanka’s non participation in 2018, the Sri Lankan Tuskers will be ranked fourth but will boast the highest World Ranking between the 4 nations. Philippine Rugby Football Union general manager Jake Letts explained, “Sri Lanka technically are ahead of the Philippines on World Rugby rankings.”
“However, hopefully, the momentum of this group can continue from 2018,” Letts continued. “We are ahead of both Singapore and Taipei so our first match will be very important. The players and coaching staff have laid a strong foundation last year and have been building ever since.”
Aside from the match between the Philippine Volcanoes and Sri Lankan Tuskers, the other semi final match on May 29, 2019 is between the teams of Singapore and Chinese Taipei. The winners of each match will progress to the Division 1 final at the Taipei Municipality Stadium on June 1, 2019.
Prior to the Asia Rugby Championship 2019, the Philippine Volcanoes and the Sri Lankan Tuskers have met five times since 2012. Currently, the Sri Lankan team is ahead on a 3 to 2 head-to-head record, which its Filipino rival is looking to have evened up.
Backed by First Pacific, MVP Sports Foundation and the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Volcanoes will welcome back experienced veterans namely Patrice Ortiz Olivier, Justin Villazor Coveney and Ashley Matias Heward to help boost their chances to defend the title. The team will also blood potentially up to nine debutantes including Ellis Rudder, a sign that the union is heavily recruiting the top Philippine talent around the world.
“With a huge calendar year for the Volcanoes, national team selection is important and recruiting to the top talent will ensure this program continues to compete with the best,” Letts noted. “The coaching staff led by Stu Woodhouse have worked extremely hard over the last few months to ensure our squad is competitive to be successful.”
Meanwhile, here is a clip from the Philippine Rugby Football Union and David’s Salon: