The Philippine Volcanoes national Rugby team prepare for their first-ever home match as contenders in the Asian 5 Nations Top 5 Division as they host Hong Kong this Saturday, May 4 at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Volcanoes enter the match as significant underdogs in their debut season in the Elite Division of Asian Rugby against a veteran Hong Kong team that has never finished lower than third in the competition, and regularly comes in second-place to perennial league leaders, Japan. The team is looking for an improved result after a very difficult opening loss away against Japan. The season-opener served as a baptism of fire after the team mostly sailed through its divisional promotional campaign with barely a bump, suffering only one loss in the previous five years.
The Volcanoes’ task will be made even harder as starting 8-man/flanker Jake Pingal Ward is likely out for the rest of the tournament with broken ribs suffered in the match against Japan, and Head Coach Jarred Hodges forced to leave Thursday night due to a critical family emergency. The Volcanoes enter the match with assistant coach Stu Woodhouse taking over the head coaching duties and team manager Phil Gittus assisting with the forwards. Reached for comment prior to the match, Gittus noted the team “has a very realistic, but very positive attitude going into Saturday’s match. [The team] has had three weeks together now and look forward to showcasing some of [their] attacking prowess as well as defensive resolve.”
The team can look to some encouraging signs before the first match. Before facing defending champions Japan, the Volcanoes had only one week to prepare due to majority of the players being based in Australia, Japan, Europe, and the United States. The extra time together in practice will benefit the team immensely in terms of structure, organization, and chemistry.
They should also be encouraged by the play of starting scrum-half James Carandang Price who excelled in every facet of the game against Japan, despite an overwhelming advantage in quality by the fully-professional Japanese side. Facing a Japanese forward pack with a massive size advantage, the high-flying Volcanoes backs, long considered the team’s most dangerous attacking weapon, were starved of ball possession in their opening match and will look to string together more possession and phases of play against a Hong Kong side that also lost heavily to Japan at home last week, while the forwards should be able to showcase a more structured and organized defensive effort.
While an upset win against Hong Kong this weekend would be a pleasant shock, the team will be looking more for further experience in top-division Asian Rugby and signs of progress before entering the critical matches against South Korea on May 11 and UAE on May 18 as they search for the all-important win to avoid relegation and ensure survival in the top division.
About the HSBC Asian 5 Nations
The HSBC Asian 5 Nations is a six-week long competition among the top 5 teams in Asia and is the qualifying competition for the Rugby World Cup 2015. Having been promoted from Division 1 in 2012, the Philippines are ranked fifth while Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates ranked first, second, third & fourth, respectively.
The team that finishes fifth after the end of the six-week long competition will be demoted to Division 1, while the top 4 teams’ remain in the Elite Division and continue their quest to qualify for the Rugby World Cup 2015.
The winner of the Elite Division in 2014 receives outright qualification to the Rugby World Cup 2015, while the Elite Division’s 2nd placer will face the 2nd placers from Africa, Europe and the Americas in a knock-out competition for the 20th & final Rugby World Cup slot.
4 May 2013:
Japan v South Korea: Tokyo, Japan
Philippines v Hong Kong: Rizal Memorial Stadium, Manila
10 May 2013:
United Arab Emirates v Japan: Dubai
11 May 2013:
South Korea v Philippines: Ansan, South Korea
18 May 2013:
South Korea v Hong Kong , Ansan, South Korea
Philippines v United Arab Emirates: Rizal Memorial Stadium, Manila
Where to watch
Tickets to the Philippine games on May 4 & 18 are available at: http://www.ticketworld.com.ph
The Philippine games on May 4 & 18 will be telecast live on Solar Sports and FOX Sports channels.
Games are also available to view online:
View complete telecast schedule:
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