The Philippine Volcanoes hope to continue their remarkable rise in the international level with a strong showing in their maiden participation in the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow, Russia, late this month.
Having made an impact in the 15-a-side game, where they are now in Asia’s top-flight, the Volcanoes have high hopes in their biggest, most important tournament yet.
The Philippines, one of only three Asian countries in the World Cup scheduled June 28-30, will come in as a heavy underdog in Pool C, where it is grouped with seeded teams Zimbabwe, Kenya and Samoa.
But American coach Al Caravelli and skipper Michael Letts are confident that the 12-man team that will don the country’s colors can create a ripple in the prestigious event in the Russian capital.
“We will definitely put our best foot forward in this tournament,” said Letts, who was part of the 15-a-side team that beat United Arab Emirates last month and kept the Volcanoes in the top flight in Asia.
“We’re a new team in the World Cup, but we will be there fighting.”
Caravelli whipped his team into shape with a month-long camp in Laguna and veteran Matthew Saunders believes the Volcanoes have enough preparations for battle.
“The preparations for the World Cup campaign have been different compared to the other tournaments as we’ve been able to train together for a longer amount of time,” said Saunders.
From an original list of 23, Caravelli will trim his squad to 12 on June 20, just three days before the Volcanoes leave for Moscow.
“The players are growing individually and as a team,” said Caravelli, a former coach in the United States. “While we are still new to international rugby, we are learning and improving.”
The Volcanoes reached the World Cup, after finishing third in qualifying in Singapore last year.
Beyond the World Cup, the Volcanoes are looking at nailing a medal in the Asian Games next year and qualifying for the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.
Caravelli said they remain focused on their bid to make an immediate impact in the World Cup.
“Anybody can beat anybody (in the World Cup),” he said. “We have a good chance of putting pressure on the stronger teams.”