PHILIPPINE rugby said it has assembled its strongest pool of players in two years, vowing to win a medal and not be a mere token presence in the Southeast Asian Games next month in Singapore.
“We are not coming just to participate in the games. We are aiming to bring home a medal and give glory to the Philippines,” said Volcanoes captain Jake Letts.
Letts is joined in the player pool by fellow veterans Justin Coveney, Gareth Holgate and Matt Saunders who have all seen action in the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2013 and the 2014 Asian Games. The pool also includes new players who have experience in previous Asian Sevens tournaments.
From the 18-man pool will come the final 12 that will see action in the SEA Games set June 6 and 7 at Choa Chu Kang Stadium.
“This is the strongest 18 members selected since our debut in the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens,” added Letts.
“Our squad has the depth and experience to do very well in this tournament. However in Sevens Rugby, anything can happen. We will by no means be expecting any easy games. Every game will be tough and we aren’t taking anything for granted. It is sure to be a very competitive tournament, but we are all looking forward to the challenge of capturing a gold medal for our country.”
Philippine rugby officials noted that among the top contenders is host Singapore, which has invested substantially in rugby and has put up a semi-professional program for its Rugby Sevens athletes.
“Of course all teams are aiming for gold. But at the end of the day, we know we should focus on our strengths as a team and play to the best of our abilities. It will all come down to who wants it more,” said Letts.
While the men’s team competed in the 2005 and 2007 SEA Games, the 2015 Singapore Games will be the first for the Lady Volcanoes.
Coached by Shirley Russell, a former member of the Australia national women’s rugby team, the Lady Volcanoes’ training routine includes two sessions a day, at least six times per week, which the team hopes will pay off in Singapore.
“We are fitter, faster, and stronger now. The team underwent an intensive training program under the Philippine Olympic Committee which consisted of strength and conditioning, sports vision, nutrition training and even sports psychology,” said Lady Volcanoes captain Acee San Juan.
“We also underwent Rugby Sevens-specific and National Team training camps leading up to this tournament. The support we get from our coaching and management staff plus the system that we have in place now is bringing out the best in us.”