Source : Philippine Star Sports
After being promoted to the Elite Division for the first time after sweeping the HSBC Asian Five Nations (A5N) tournament in Manila just last June, the Volcanoes needed to make the top three at the final leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series which ended in Singapore Saturday.
The Nationals nearly accomplished the feat in the semifinals, putting up a tough stand before losing to eventual champion and the continent’s top team Japan, 17-7. The Japanese acknowledge it was the tougher of the two semifinals, as Hong Kong blasted perennial Philippine rival South Korea, 45-0 in the other pairing. With Japan and Hong Kong assured of berths in the World Cup, the Philippines only had one more chance.
In the battle for third, the Volcanoes, considered Asia’s most improved team, jumped to a 22-7 lead early in the second half. The Koreans, who had been the only team to defeat the Philippines in Division 1 play two years ago, came back to life with two tries, but the Filipinos held them off. Final score, 22-19.
“It is just fantastic that we are going to the World Cup. This is the first time that the Philippines will be playing in a World Cup and it is huge feat for us,” gushed proud Filipino captain Harry Morris.
“The match was definitely closer than I wanted it to be. It is the first time that a Philippines team has qualified for a team sport world championship and I give credit to the players for doing this for the nation,” said new Philippine head coach and former USA Sevens coach Al Caravelli.
Rugby Sevens will also be included in the program for the 2016 Olympic Games. It is a fitting reward for a PRFU program initiated seven years ago and tirelessly pushed by team manager and former national coach Matt Cullen. After the first two years of the program, players of Filipino heritage from all over the world started inquiring if they could represent the country. Seemingly from out of nowhere, the Philippines has climbed to among the top 50+ nations in the world. This year was the first time the men’s team was invited to the Hong Kong Sevens. Many members of the Philippine Sevens team is signed to a professional club in Japan, the highest level of play in the region. And with a strong developmental program in place, the PRFU hopes to sustain the upswing. Because of their impressive rise in international rugby and various charity work, the Volcanoes have found strong support from Filipino sponsors like Globe and Bench, which have been backing the team the last couple of years.
The new International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings to be released this week will reflect the landmark accomplishment. But the Volcanoes still aren’t satisfied.
“Now we need to lift our levels further. We don’t just want to be a number in Moscow, we’d like to make the Philippines and Asia proud of us,” vowed Caravelli.