Dubai: Philippines rugby coach Jarred Hodges is confident of victory over the UAE in this Saturday’s Asian Five Nations (A5N) relegation decider.
Both teams have lost three games apiece in the four-match round-robin and now depend on victory in the last match against each other in Manila to survive.
Newly promoted Philippines, who formed in 2006, have risen up the ranks in Asia, with five divisional wins in as many seasons, and are now looking to consolidate their position in the Top Five.
Meanwhile, the UAE, who were formed in 2011 from the break-up of the Arabian Gulf Rugby Union (AGRFU) and assumed the AGRFU’s position in Asia’s top flight, are now aiming to justify their position after two successful relegation escapes.
Hodges told Gulf News: “We’re confident we’ll get the win but it’s not going to be without a fight. The UAE have rightfully been [in the] top flight for a number of years and they won’t just hand it [victory] to us on a plate.
“We’ve had a good campaign to date and, even though results haven’t shown that, we’re confident. History shows a better win-loss percentage for whoever plays their last match at home.
“It will be a physical game against an experienced side. The UAE have effectively been in knock-out situations for the past three years and have managed to maintain their position in the top flight so that experience will help.”
Regarding the vocal home support for a team that has star status in the Philippines, which has been described by UAE Rugby Federation CEO Ian Bremner as being from “mostly screaming females”, whose support is “fairly incessant and indiscriminate”, Hodges said: “It doesn’t matter if our supporters are young teenage girls. What counts is numbers in the stadium. The boys value that support and respond to [it] accordingly. If that’s a problem for the opposition, that’s a good thing.”
Hodges also defended the fact that his team are a collective of foreigners brought together with little time to gel.
“Our players are of Filipino heritage who live abroad, and we’re very proud of that heritage. Coming together from various parts of the world has had its challenges, but the longer we’ve been together the more we’ve improved.
“On the flip side of that coin is the fact that our players are exposed to fitness and skill levels from different parts of the world week in, week out.”