Rugby team on track


The CNMI’s rugby players execute a play during their training session at the American Memorial Park last Wednesday. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The CNMI Rugby Team is heading in the right direction as far as its preparations for the 2019 Pacific Games are concerned.

“I believe we are on track,” team captain Paul Manglona said last Wednesday during a break in the group’s training session at the American Memorial Park. “We’re doing a lot of cardio and strengthening.”

“The guys are working their ass off, coming to practice regularly. Everyone is doing their job, making sacrifices for the team so when the tournament comes, we will represent the CNMI well,” said Mangloňa, who rushes to their training session the moment he clocks out of work in the afternoon.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Management System employee and the 15 other players on the squad are practicing six times a week under player/coach Stanley Iakopo and coach Samisoni Ppme’e.

“We are training everyday now, whether it’s on the field, gym working out, or at the beach. We are progressively raising the level of physical activity, working on ball handling skills and learning the proper fundamentals and executing plays. Now, we may not run all the plays and performing skills perfectly, and that is what we’re on in every practice,” Iakopo said.

As for Ppme’e, he said getting the team ready, physically, is imperative since they will be up against squads that have professional players on their roster.

“It will not be an easy task going up against these high-level players and teams like Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa, so they really have to be ready with the physicality of the game,” said Ppme’e, who ran some offensive and defensive plays during the group’s practice last Wednesday.

“We’re running situational plays because you’ll never know what will happen during the games. Plus, we’re also constantly reminding the guys of the rules of the game since most of them are new to the sport,” Ppme’e said.

What they are lacking in experience, the CNMI rugby players are making up for it with their hard work and determination.

“We put our heart into the game and we have this island pride that we will carry when we compete in Samoa,” Mangloňa said.

Iakopo added that they are progressing every day, but they still have a lot to learn so they can keep up with high-caliber teams in Samoa. The Northern Marianas Rugby Union president also said they are looking forward to the exhibition game against Guam Rugby Club next month.

“It’s a test match for us. With the support of coach Soni, Ed Arriola Jr., Derron Flores, and most specially the people of the CNMI, this group will go all out,” Iakopo said.

The Commonwealth bets will be competing in the rugby 7s, which will be held on July 12 and 13 at the Apia Park Stadium.

Members and officials of the CNMI Rugby Team pose for a photo during a break in their training session at the American Memorial Park. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.
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