THE PHILIPPINES’ RUGBY TEAM EMERGES
Now who would have ever thought that the Philippines as a country in Southeast Asia would try its hand in rugby as a competitive sport espe cially in a country that’s still basket ball crazy?
Well, believe or not, the Filipinos have done it.
The Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU) was founded in 1999 but its activ ities were fairly limited as there was only one club then – the Nomads. There were no regular fixtures and the Club just played internal games, visiting ships and occasional touring sides.
At that time, there was also only one major tournament each year – the Manila 10’s, and was being played in the Philippines predominantly by foreign ex patriates. Since then, the PRFU has come a long way. It is now able to field 100% Filipino heritage players in the Philippine National Team.
While Team Azkals for soccer are latest heroes of Philippine sports the Philip pines’ national rugby team is set to become the latest heartthrobs.
A national rugby team? Since when did the Philippines have a rugby team? Many are unaware of this and thanks to some savvy marketing from Bench – a Philippine international clothing store chain, the name and faces of this sporting squad have been set out on an awareness campaign that will surely make people take notice, especially the ladies.
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Called the “Philippine Volcanoes” it actually consists of several teams: the Na tional Men’s 15s and 7s teams and the Under 20s 15s team. There is even the National Women’s 15s and 7s team too!
To date, the Volcanoes have competed and won several internationally-recog nized and sanctioned competitions. These competitions have been excellent vehicles for raising the visibility of Philippine’ rugby to other clubs and countries around the world.
Prior to this development, Philippine Volcanoes’ existence was relatively un known but they actually have been performing well in the international Rugby scene. The team have brought home gold medals in 2005 and silver medals in 2007 from the South East Asian Games. For 3-years (from 2008-2010), the Volcanoes Men’s 15 team were the champions in the Asian-5 National. They are also the 2009 and 2010 gold medalists at the Asian Junior Rugby Division 2 (Under 20’s).
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TAKING THE GAME TO THE WORLD
It’s a good start but even with all this we think that until the likes of All Blacks World Rugby Cup 2011 coach Graham Henry and star players like Richie McCaw, Mils Muliaina, Daniel Carter and Corey Jane retire and decide to spend some time basking in the splendid beaches of the Philippines sipping some piña colada and rhum cokes and coach the PRFU on the sideline in the future then we might yet see the Volcanoes qualify for RWC 2027.
Does this idea sound too far-fetched? We don’t think so because it is obvious that New Zealand has taken the game of rugby to almost all corners of the globe.
The Rugby Union in New Zealand has been a hearty little cottage industry for expat New Zealand players and coaches.
According to an article published in NZ Herald’s 25 September 2011 Sunday edition, the Rugby World Cup provides a perfect chance to “measure the spread and depth of our exported playing, training and coaching knowledge.”
In this year’s tournament alone, there are 40 New Zealand-born players in RWC squads, aside from the All Blacks. The largest contingent of New Zealand-born players in another national squad is Samoa with 17.
Other countries bolstered by Kiwi players are: Canada (1), England (2), Fiji (3), Ireland (1), Japan (6), Tonga (7) and the USA (1).
Another list of other countries who are into the sport of rugby like Russia, Scotland, Romania, Wales, Namibia and Argentina have, at one time or another, grafted honorary Kiwi players into their own teams. It’s becoming the norm rather than the exception to the rule.
On the coaching side, the Italian team had a strong connection with New Zealand when rugby All Black legend John Kirwan was once involved as its coach and had several Kiwi players on the team.
Even Australia has Kiwi-born Robbie Deans as its Australian RWC 2011 team head coach and proudly sings the Australian national anthem at every game despite his Canterbury roots.
Is there a likelihood that Kiwis will be playing for or coaching the Volcano’s in the near future? No pun intended but who knows, it’s probably worth a try.
Business tycoon Manny Pangilinan has been known to facilitate these kind of things for sport in the Philippines. In February this year, the MVP Sports Foun dation, Inc. which he chairs, announced a mission of helping both grass roots development and elite programs of eight national sports associations.
Also dubbed as GOAL! Pilipinas, the foundation will provide monetary and lo gistical support to soccer, basketball, boxing, cycling, taekwondo, badminton, tennis and running to further help Philippine sports.
Perhaps rugby will be next.