The boys all arrived in Manila one by one and so did my bag. Friday night was the first official team welcome at the hotel and it was great to catch up with the old faces and meet all the new ones. The new faces bought with them something that the Philippine Rugby has never had before and that is size. It awesome to see how many more Filipinos play rugby around the world and coming home to trial for the national team. The other thing that arrived on Friday night was my bag! It made for a late night trip to the airport, but I was so glad to have all my stuff back.
The next day we took off for the Word of Life Camp. The bus ride up there was Filipino style with more bodies than seats and the bags and equipment piled up in the aisle. We took off on time, stopped in Calamba for a quick bite to eat and then headed on to the camp. The only problem was that no one actually knew the way to the camp and we did what seemed like a thousand u-turns and passed the same landmarks over and over. Eventually, we arrived at camp a couple of hours late, ate lunch and got ready for our first meeting and training sessions.
The first meeting set the stage. We started the meeting by beginning the brainstorming process for the standards and values that we as team would require of ourselves. This is our legacy to all future Philippine Rugby teams. With the three phrases that we came up that epitomize a Philippine Rugby player: Discipline, Respect and Proudly Pinoy. We then followed it with a hard first up session. It included 20 minutes of fitness jammed into between skill and contact work. Fortunately, the heat was down and the effort was high. The old school front row of Austin, Phil and myself were at the front of the fitness work and I was stoked to see that all the effort that I have been putting in is paying off.
That night I had my hips and hip flexor worked on by Damo. He decided that I needed to have some acupuncture on my hip to help release the muscle. I have to say this was one of the most excruciating experiences of my life. He jiggled that needle around and it hurt…a lot! Afterward it was straight to bed and a nice 8-9 hours of sleep.
Sunday started early as the sun streamed in through windows and brekky was good. The meeting that morning built on the team values and introduced the skills required for defense and contact skills. The meeting was good and helped refresh my memory on everything that we are going to do this week against Hong Kong. I started to get excited about playing. The morning training started well until we started contact and Zilla in the middle of clearing me out fell over my ankle! It rolled reasonably bad and put me out of the rest of training for the morning. I was pretty disappointed to pick up a niggle like this, but after assessment tonight it is a little swollen yet it is under control.
The afternoon we went to University of the Philippines Los Baños for training. This sessions focus was on attack and what we were going to do with the ball. It was a lot of fun, but personally it was difficult because I felt like I couldn’t accelerate, decelerate or cut effectively with my ankle. I pushed through training and was really happy to get back in a scrum and do some lineout work with the forwards. The size is definitely a bonus and the boys are coming together as unit quickly.
After training we went to the local hot baths for a couple of hours to chill out and relax. It was nice to just sit for bit. Many of the boys had weary feet and bodies. Sitting in the baths and chatting was a nice. The evening was spent getting some more treatment on my ankle, hips and hip flexor while catching a movie with the boys. The last note is that the weather is awesome. I am sitting outside and there is a nice breeze. So far we haven’t suffered through the normal brutal heat, it may yet happen but I’m happy right now.