WITH a longer and much tougher training camp this time, the Philippine Volcanoes are confident the team would dish out fine performances in its debut in the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow later this month.
Matthew Saunders, who had been with the Volcanoes since 2006 as an Under 19 player, said training at their Laguna camp has been physically tough but knows it will prepare them well for the event set to begin on June 28.
“The preparations for the World Cup campaign have been different compared to the other tournaments as we've been able to train together for a longer amount of time,”said Saunders, who has scored more tries than any other Volcanoes team member on the international stage.
The original pool of 23 players has been trimmed to 14 and the final 12 that will join the trip to Russia will be announced on Thursday.
“Usually, the squad is announced and then we fly over a week before the tournaments, but this time, we've been lucky enough to have over three weeks of preparation prior to flying out to Russia.”
Saunders also said they are confident they are on the right track with fomer USA Rugby Sevens coach Al Caravelli, who was tapped to mentor the Volcanoes in mid-2012.
“The training is hard, a lot of skills and conditioning at the beginning of camp,” he said.
“It's definitely been a difficult camp and the boys have found it tough, but Al's been here and done it all before, he knows what needs to be done and what expectations that need to be met to play at this level.”
Saunders, however, warned against high expectations in the World Cup and noted that the Volcanoes are looking beyond Russia.
“We have many goals that we are working hard towards accomplishing. After the World Cup Sevens, we've got the Asian Sevens Series where we hope to place well to get a spot at the Hong Kong Sevens 2014.
“Towards the end of next year, we would love to bring home a medal for the Philippines at the Asian Games in Korea. Of course, there is the Olympics … our main goal would be to qualify for that. It will be tough, but five years ago when we first started playing sevens, we never thought that we'd be playing in a World Cup so soon. Anything is possible.”
The Philippines, along with Japan and Hong Kong, are the only three Asian countries in the competition.
The Volcanoes, who clinched a spot in the World Cup by defeating South Korea in the qualifying tournament in November, are in Pool C with Zimbabwe, Kenya and Samoa.
“With the No. 4 and 5 teams in our pool, plus Zimbabwe who just came off the qualification round in London, all three teams have way more experience than we do. But that is what Rugby Sevens and the World Cup is all about … giving a nation a chance to be on the big stage. We have nothing to lose all to gain. We believe we should be here.”