Source : Philippine Star Sports
MANILA, Philippines - The national rugby team leaves for Japan tomorrow, ready to slug it out with the best in the region in the Elite Division of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Rugby which begins Saturday in Fukuoka.
The Volcanoes get an early test of will and character as they face the top-ranked Japan in the A5N opener.
Zooming from the fourth to the top division in just five seasons, the Volcanoes have been billed as the team to watch in Asian Rugby, having lost just once since joining the competition in 2008.
Japan, unbeaten in the Elite Division since the A5N was founded, is the only team with a better win-record than the Volcanoes.
The HSBC Asian 5 Nations is a grueling six-week long competition among the top five teams in Asia which serves as the qualifying competition for the Rugby World Cup 2015. Having been promoted from Division 1 in 2012, the Philippines is ranked fifth behind Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates in that order.
After Japan, the Phl hopes to gain home advantage when it meets Hong Kong at Rizal Memorial Stadium on May 4. The Volcanoes will then take on South Korea on May 11 in South Korea and close out their campaign with another home match against UAE on May 18.
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“We need to win at least one match during the A5N series to remain in the Elite Division for 2014,” said team captain Michael Letts. “The winner of the Elite Division in 2014 receives outright qualification to the Rugby World Cup 2015, while the Elite Division’s second placer will face the No. 2 teams from Africa, Europe and the Americas in a knock-out competition for the 20th and final Rugby World Cup slot,” he added.
The Volcanoes squad of 30, composed mainly of Filipino heritage players based in Australia, New Zealand, United States and United Kingdom, have been training under national men’s 15s coach, Jarred Hodges. The team will be trimmed down to 22.