MANILA -- The Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU) has lined up international tournaments for both the men's and women's teams in preparation for this year's 30th Southeast Asian Games.
The men's team is eyeing to defend the gold medal it won in Singapore two years ago, while the women's squad is also keen to duplicate or surpass its bronze medal finish.
"2019 will be a big year for Philippine rugby with back-to-back competitions both for the national men's and women's teams," PRFU president Rick Santos said during the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Amelie Hotel in Malate, Manila.
“Our players have put their heart and soul into the game and we are all excited to see the results of our hard work with support from a more engaged local community,” he added.
The men's team will see action at the HSBC Cathay Pacific World Series Qualifiers from April 5 to 7 in Hong Kong.
The Philippines and host Hong Kong are the only Asian teams among the 12 nations joining the prestigious qualifier that will decide which teams will be promoted to the 2019/2020 HSBC World Series where the top 15 countries in the world are competing.
The Philippine Volcanoes men's team will also compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifying tournament in Incheon, South Korea in November.
The Lady Volcanoes, on the other hand, will participate in the Asia Rugby Women's Championships in June followed by the Trophy Series in August.
They won two silver medals last year and have recently toured in Borneo where they played a high-level competition and beat Singapore HPD, one of their arch-rivals in the coming SEA Games.
PRFU secretary general Ada Milby said the women's program "is on track to continue growing year on year".
"The women's program only started in 2010 and we are very proud of how far the program has come in such a short time," said Milby, the first female member of the World Rugby Council.
"World rugby and Asian rugby have identified the women's game as one of the biggest opportunities for the growth of the sport, so it will be exciting to see the continued growth of the women's game over the next eight to 10 years in PRFU," she added.
Meanwhile, over 1,000 children have benefitted from the Santos Knight Frank "Get Into Rugby" program aimed at preparing the next generation of rugby players.
Launched in 2013, the PRFU program encourages new participants especially from grassroots communities to be involved, through the "Try, Play and Stay" campaign.
Around 130 players, aged six to 16 years old, are taking part in the Santos Knight Frank Junior Rugby Festivals every month.
"Over the past decade, over 1,000 players were introduced to the many opportunities in the sport. Some of the homegrown kids include Lito Ramirez and Jonel Madrona, who now play for the national men's team," said Santos, who is chairman, CEO and founder of Santos Knight Frank, the country's first fully-integrated real estate service provider.
Santos also manages his own rugby club, the Makati Mavericks Sports Foundation, whose teams have successfully won in competitions such as the SPI 15s (2018 champion), Palawan 7s Cup (2017 champion) and JML 15s (plate champion). (PNA)