THE U19 national rugby team—called the Jr. Philippine Volcanoes—takes on tournament favorite Korea tomorrow in the opening round of the U19 Asia Rugby Championships.
The Asia Rugby Championships returns to Manila, with four teams contesting for the title. The Philippines will be seeded fourth, Korea second, the United Arab Emirates third and Malaysia first after the team was relegated from the premier division.
This is the fourth time the Philippines is hosting the international event, which aims to develop the next batch of rugby stars for the Volcanoes.
The Philippines compete in the U19 division each year as a stepping stone in the pathway for the National Youth System. With the support from Asia Rugby, Philippine Sports Commission, First Pacific and MVP Sports Foundation, the country is able to host the event as the game continues to be recognized as a growing sport in the country.
“The U19 program is a youth-development program, nurturing young talent and identifying future Volcanoes. It allows these athletes the opportunity to play on an international stage.
Having a successful National Youth Program ensures the Volcanoes and the national Rugby team has depth for the future,” said Jake Letts, director for Philippine Rugby.
“It’s important to invest in our youth, provide them a pathway into international competition. With the SEA [Southeast Asian] Games being hosted in the Philippines in 2019, we want to be able to identify a few players from this program so we can invest in their future,” Letts added.
The Junior Volcanoes will be boosted by the return of Kai Ledesma Stroem, Rhys Jacob Mackley, Lyndon Adlao and Ryan Ralston Santos.
Stroem and Mackley are already making their mark on the seniors level, while Santos has also been earmarked to be a top draft pick for the US system after he graduates from the International School Manila next year with an aim to play at a collegiate level.
“It’s always exciting to be part of this program each year, last year Korea actually won the championships. We are expecting another tough encounter in our first match. We have been in training camp preparing well under our coaching staff, come Wednesday we will be ready for Korea” said Stroem, team captain for the Volcanoes last year.
The team will be lead by coaches Stuart Woodhouse and David Johnston, both experienced to the international level in Asia. The Volcanoes will kick off the first match against UAE at 5 p.m., with the second match between United Arab Emirates and Malaysia at 6:45 p.m. Games are to be hosted at International School Manila.