During my recent visit to Las Vegas for the IRB 7s, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Fil-Ams making a name for themselves on the American rugby scene.
One of our brightest prospects there is Alex Aronson, a 20-year old fly-half playing at Cal Berkeley, the undisputed No. 1 university rugby program in the USA. Since 1984 when the legendary Jack Clark took over as head coach, Cal has won a staggering 21 national titles. Last Saturday, Aronson was the starting fly-half against Air Force and contributed 25 points in their 90-0 victory.
The dilemma for many of our Filipino-heritage rugby players is the choice between trying to break into an established national union or to contribute to the PRFU in a more substantial role. Under IRB laws, a player can only represent one national union after turning 18 years of age. I’m hoping that as we progress through the international ranks, the decision to commit to the PRFU will be made easier due to the higher levels in which we will compete.
The number of Filipino-heritage rugby players who are now internationals with other unions is growing steadily. The latest of these was Volney Rouse, a fly-half at San Francisco Golden Gate in the USA Super League. 27-year old Rouse attained his first cap for the American Eagles in 2010 playing against Russia in the Churchill Cup. Rouse, like Aronson, is a point scoring machine with his ability to run at the defence line and his goal kicking accuracy.
Rouse attended St. Mary’s College of California and after taking up the game late, he twice achieved All-American honours. In 2009 he led his San Francisco Golden Gate team to the Super League title. In order to improve his chances of selection with the Eagles, Rouse decided to take up an offer to play rugby in New Zealand. This certainly paid off for him as he gained selection to the national team shortly after.
One of the most recent additions to the Wallabies squad is 21-year old Queensland Reds flyer Rod Davies. In the 2010 Super14 season, Davies scored some blistering tries, most notably the one against the Crusaders. A hamstring injury prevented him from completing the season but he had shown enough potential to be picked in the Wallabies European tour.
Davies went to Ipswich Grammar and was the GPS 100m sprint champion with a time of 10.81sec in his final year of high school. In 2008, he played for the Australian U20s at the World Championships. Recently at the Reds’ pre-season training he was crowned the fastest player with many calling him the fastest man outright in rugby. Both his national coach Robbie Deans and his provincial coach Ewen McKenzie believe that Davies will only improve with time. This is only his third year of professional rugby after having had a stint in rugby league with the Brisbane Broncos.
Davies visited the Philippines in 2009 to help run some coaching clinics with the PRFU. He has a soft spot for the country and eagerly awaits another opportunity to help develop the local game. For the time being he is focused on remaining injury fee in order to push for World Cup selection with the Wallabies at the end of the year.
Another Fil-Aus player who has attained national honours is 23-year old AJ Gilbert. Born in Dorrigo, northern NSW, Gilbert was a member of the Australian U19 team which won the World Championships in 2006. In the same year he was picked for the Australian 7s team and also signed a contract with the Queensland Reds under Eddie Jones.
Gilbert named George Smith as his childhood hero and comparisons were easy to make. At the time, not only did they feature matching dreadlocks but they were both flankers who played hard on the ball.
So there is no question that Filipinos all over the world have got the talent to succeed in this sport. The PRFU is dedicated to growing the game locally as well as internationally. Our Filipino-heritage players who are based abroad will hopefully guide the Volcanoes to further international success. They will be the heroes that the local players will aspire to be. They will be the players who will ensure our next generation continue the high standards already set.
Expo is the current head coach of the Philippines national rugby union team having been appointed in November, 2009. In his first year he guided the Volcanoes to the Asian Five Nations 2010 Division II title thereby earning promotion to Division I for 2011.