Michael Letts, captain (Photo: MCristino)
The Philippine National Rugby Team is in the thick of preparations for their debut in the Elite Division of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Rugby competition. The Volcanoes will face their biggest challenge to date, meeting number one-ranked Japan in the A5N opener to be held in Fukuoka on Saturday, April 20.
Zooming from the fourth to the top division in just five seasons, the Volcanoes have been hailed as the team to watch in Asian Rugby, having lost only once since joining the competition in 2008. Japan, who have been in the Elite Division since the A5N was founded, is the only team with a better win record than the Volcanoes, having never lost a match since the tournament’s inception.
The HSBC Asian 5 Nations is a grueling 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.
After Japan, the Volcanoes hope to gain home advantage when they face Hong Kong at Rizal Memorial Stadium on May 4, after which they meet South Korea on May 11 in South Korea. The Volcanoes end with a home match versus UAE on May 18, again at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“We need to win at least one match during the A5N series to remain in the Elite Division for 2014,” explains 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 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” he adds.
The Volcanoes squad of 30, composed mainly of Filipino heritage players based in Australia, New Zealand, United States and United Kingdom, has been training under National Men’s 15s coach, Jarred Hodges, and will be trimmed down to 22 members that will travel to Japan on Thursday, April 18.
Philippine Volcanoes Asian 5 Nations squad:
Watch the HSBC Asian 5 Nations 2013 Live: Japan vs. Philippines on STAR Sports S.E.A. 12:55PM-3PM on Saturday, 20 April.
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