The U19 National Rugby Team, the Jr. Philippine Volcanoes, take on tournament favorites Korea on Wednesday 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, United Arab Emirates third and Malaysia first, after Malaysia was relegated from the Premier division.
This is the fourth time the Philippines has hosted the international event. The aim of the tournament is to develop the next batch of Rugby stars for the Philippine Volcanoes. The Philippines compete in the U19 division each year, it acts as a stepping-stone in the pathway for the National Youth System. Luckily the support from Asia Rugby, the Philippine Sports Commission, First Pacific and the MVP Sports Foundation, allows Philippine Rugby to host the event as the game continues to be recognized as a growing sport in the Philippines.
“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 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,” added Letts.
The Jr.Volcanoes will be boosted by the return of Kai Ledesma Stroem, Rhys Jacob Mackley and Ryan Ralston Santos. Stroem and Mackley, already making their mark on the seniors level. 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.
“Its 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 at 5:00 p.m., with the second match between United Arab Emirates and Malaysia at 6:45 p.m. Games will be held at International School Manila.