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    After staying in top flight, PH rugby team shifts focus to Asiad medal

    May 21, 2013

    THE Philippine rugby team aims to turn its recent success into a medal when it competes in the 2014 Asian Games in September in South Korea.

    After keeping its place in the top flight of the Asian Five Nations following a 24-8 victory over United Arab Emirates last Saturday, the Volcanoes hope to make an impression in the sevens tournament of the continental quadrennial showpiece.

    Rugby sevens has been calendared in the Asian Games since 1998 and will make its Olympic debut in Rio 2016.

    Appearing in the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at Shakey’s Malate on Tuesday, national team selector Matt Cullen expressed confidence the Volcanoes, regarded as Asia’s fastest-rising squad, will finish with a medal in the Asian Games next year.

    “We actually have a team that’s proven that we can bid for a medal. We consider ourselves contenders in the rugby sevens,” said Cullen, a former Volcanoes coach.

    While they are ranked fourth in the Asian rugby union, the Volcanoes are placed one position higher in the continent’s rugby sevens.

    The Volcanoes, who bagged the silver medal in the rugby sevens competition in the 2007 Southeast Asian Games in Thailand, will be grouped with Samoa, Kenya, and Zimbabwe in the Rugby World Cup Sevens.

    Volcanoes coach Jarred Hodges has a more modest expectation, but is hoping to build on what they accomplished last Saturday in front of a home crowd.

    “The first target (in the World Cup Sevens) is to win one match,” the Australian mentor said. “The confidence we built in the weekend will push us further.”

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    Hodges said the bulk of the sevens team will come from the fifteens squad, skippered by Filipino-Australian fullback Michael Letts.

    The Volcanoes return to training camp on June 2 in their new facility in Calamba, Laguna, near the Silangan exit of the South Luzon Expressway.

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