United Arab Emirates v Philippines in Manilla (WCQ Asia; Asia 5 Nations)
Venue: Rizal Memorial Stadium
Referee: Taku Otsuki (Japan)
Preview (Adapted from media esa press release)
The loser of the game between UAE and the Philippines in Manila will miss out on the chance to qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup finals.The loser being relegated to Division One. Sri Lanka, winners of Division One this season, will be promoted to the elite division.
Philippines coach Jarred Hodges was enthusiastic about his team’s chances and the Volcanoes’ debut season in the Top 5, saying, “It's been fantastic. We have learnt a lot about ourselves and identified areas we need to work on if we are to be a major player in the next two to three years.
“We have improved week on week but it is now time to string two 40-minute halves together. We know that if we can compete for 80 minutes we're going to win more games than we lose. The set piece remains an area that we need to work on and the guys are working hard to improve their skill sets.”
Hodges knows that the UAE forwards are strong and will be intent on exploiting any perceived weakness in their opposition up front.
“The UAE team is very experienced and has been in the top flight for a number of years. They have played the relegation match before and have always got the result, so that’s going to help them. They’re big and physical, so we’re going to need to be up for the contest.
“But I’m confident that this week at home, people are going to see a different side. We have made a few personnel changes that will strengthen us; guys who have been injured and are now fit to give it a go. I think we will surprise people.
UAE coach Duncan Hall was equally sanguine about his side’s prospects: “We have made good progress on the field, but unfortunately it doesn't reflect in the scorelines. The competition gets harder every year and you need to lift your own standards to keep up. But it is always an honour to be in the top division and we very much enjoy punching above our weight and I am sure the Philippines do as well.”
Both UAE and the Philippines are winless and all it needs is a simple victory this weekend to keep hold of their places at the top table - ensuring that the teams will be putting everything they have out on the pitch on Saturday night.
Philippines coach Hodges said: “The relegation match is obviously important in terms of what happens next year. But is it the be-all and end-all? No it's not. Philippine rugby has got a stronghold and is growing all the time in the country. We’ll continue beyond next year whatever the result may be. But we would like to make sure that we continue in the top flight - that is for sure.
UAE coach Hall said, “I have been asked recently, would we be better playing in the division below and have more even matches? On the one hand, the answer is yes. It is very difficult to ask players to go into a competition where you are possibly going to lose three games and you have a chance of winning one. But that is the way it is and we look forward every year to that challenge.
“We all want to play in the top division and our aim is to stay there. But it is very difficult as we are working off a small pool of qualified players.”
“But being up in the Top 5 - and staying there, gives us credibility as a union and encourages players who qualify to give up their time and be a part of a great concept and a great competition,” Hall added.
Prediction: Philippines by 10 points
1. Abraham, Philip Benares
2. Hagan, Graeme Santillan
3. Bellenie, Matthew Orag
4. Feeney, David
5. Howorth, Stephen Pagtalunan
6. Carroll, Terrence Javier
7. Hitch, Christopher Baltazar
8. Ward, Jake Pingal
9. Letts, Jake Robrigado
10. Aronson, Alexander Noroña
11. Holgate, Gareth dela Rosa
12. Saunders, Benjamin Abalos
13. Olivier, Patrice Ortiz
14. Matthews, Joseph Bembo
15. Letts, Michael Robrigado (c)
16. Dacanay, Austin Garnica
17. Duhig, Michael Estrada
18. Robinson-Polkey, David
19. Perry, Nicholas Ergina
20. De Guzman, Michael
21. Gomez, Cleo Ferrer
22. Coveney, Justin Villazor
23. Saunders, Matthew Abalos
’Surprised to see both Coveney and Matt Saunders on the bench. Also curious about the status of James Price at scrumhalf. Jake Letts is no slouch, and has only missed one test match in the history of Philippines test rugby but Price has proven himself quite a talent the past couple of seasons. No film from the Korea game so no word on whether he was injured or just didn't play well.’
United Arab Emirates
15 Steve Smith, 14 Jono Bester, 13 Harry Woods, 12 Chris Burch 11 Malcolm Greenslade, 10 James Ham, 9 Gareth Armstrong, 1 Graham Murphy, 2 Jonathan Greenwood, 3 Dan Boatwright, 4 Anthony Murphy, 5 Ed Talbot, 6 Renier Els, 7 David Knight, 8 Jamie Clarke
Replacements 16 Ollie Delapp, 17 Chris Jones Griffiths, 18 Brett Bowie, 19 David Matasio, 20 Mark Weissenborn, 21 Sean Hurley, 22 Cyrus Homayoun, 23 Antoine Berthuile