THE Philippine national men’s rugby team guns for a championship berth when it takes on Singapore in the opener of the Asian Rugby Championship Division 1 on Wednesday at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The top-ranked Volcanoes, who are bannered by pros from rugby leagues in Japan, the US, Australia and Britain, seek to capitalize on experience and crowd support in the 4 p.m. match against the No. 4 Singaporeans.
Second-ranked Sri Lanka and No. 3 Kazakhstan tangle in the first match at 2 p.m., with the winner also advancing to the finale set Saturday.
“We’re fairly confident we’ll beat Singapore and be in the finals,” said Matt Cullen, a director of the Philippine Rugby Football Union.
The Volcanoes last faced the Singaporeans in the 2012 Asian 5 Nation Division 1 meet that at Rizal Memorial Stadium, beating the visitors, 37-20, en route to the tournament title.
“Singapore will play a very fast, fit game. They’re a very, very fit team, they can run for 80 minutes, no problem. The advantage we have is that we’re fit but we’re also skillful,” said center Justin Coveney, who plays in Japan.
Coveney will be joined by Austin Dacanay, Michael Duhig, Matt Bellenie, David Feeney, Ashley Heward, Terry Carrol, Benjamin Mudie, Steve Howorth, veteran Jake Letts, captain Oliver Saunders, Harry Morris, Timothy Bweheni, Jeff Gregson, Gareth Holgate, Masayuki Sekiguchi, Phil Abraham, David Robinson-Polkey, Fred Morris, Christopher Anderson, Cleo Gomez, Daniel Matthews and Alex Aronson.
“Our players are well-experienced overseas and even though we only had 10 days in camp, we still have our advantage. We always look forward coming back together. We have confidence in our team, we have confidence in one another, that we’ll get the job done and put our best foot forward,” said Letts.
The Volcanoes, coached by Stu Woodhouse, are the first national squad to see action at the 20,000-seater Philippine Sports Stadium and they hope to put up a good show for supporters.
“We’re all very excited to be playing in front of a home crowd and we’re going to leave everything on the field to bring honor to the Philippines,” said Saunders.