Ryan Howe is fast, really fast, and when it comes to sevens rugby, speed is one of the greatest assets. His dad is a Kiwi and his mum is Filipino and last month the former John Paul College student helped the Philippines Sevens team reach the quarter-finals of the qualifier tournament at the Hong Kong Sevens. However, if you'd told Howe a few years ago that he'd be playing international sevens in front of 40,000 screaming fans he would've laughed in your face. Sports reporter David Beck spoke to the 26-year-old about his meteoric rise.
Ryan Howe was never a rugby player.
Growing up, the former John Paul College student was a runner and when it came to the 100m sprint he was one of the best. In 2011, he won the men's under-20 100m sprint and a silver in the 4x100m relay at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships.
However, a back injury combined with an eagerness to focus on studying to be a chiropractor led to an extended break from the sport.
Two years ago, as a 24-year-old, he made a cameo rugby appearance and it changed his life.
"I was the chiropractor for the Greerton Marist Rugby Club and one day they were short a player for their development team. They were short a winger and they said 'hey, you're a speed guy, do you want to have a go?'. So I jumped on and ended up scoring a couple of tries."
Howe played a season with Greerton and his electric speed and eye for the try line quickly turned heads. More importantly, being half Filipino, the Philippines Sevens team came calling.
"My coach knew the Philippines head coach [former All Black] Frano Botica, it was sort of just right place, right time for me. He phoned me and said I had a bit of work to do to catch up my rugby skills, then flew me over there."
His first time playing for the Philippines was in Sri Lanka in 2017.
"I go over there in the summer, probably for a couple of months every year. We play in the Asian Circuit which is in three locations every year, Sri Lanka, Korea and Hong Kong.
Opinion: Baywide rugby reaches climax
Belgian exchange student loving NZ sports
Behind the Name with Rotorua's Amanda Landers-Murphy
"The hardest thing was the fitness - as a sprinter you're only doing 100m at a time. My first year playing I could only play half a game but I've done enough training now to play full games."
At the end of last year Howe and his teammates beat Sri Lanka in a third-place playoff - he scored two tries - to qualify to play in front of 40,000 raucous fans in the qualifier tournament at the Hong Kong Sevens.
It is quite a contrast going from rugby-mad New Zealand to playing for a country desperately trying to grow the sport.
"The last time we went there was 10 years ago so the Philippines are definitely getting better. It's pretty special. That was our first goal as a team, to make it, and the second goal was to finish top eight which we did as well - we lost to Hong Kong in the quarter-final but it was a really close game."
Not only did he play in the Hong Kong Sevens, Howe scored a try which went viral against Tonga. He received the ball behind his own try line and took off, racing the length of the field to score.
A video of the try was posted on the World Rugby Sevens Facebook page and shared all over the world.
"It was crazy. Two years ago I was a nobody, just your average sprinter, but I took this one opportunity and it's been crazy ever since. I got a lot of messages from Filipinos back home who said they were proud, that was cool.
"The focus has sort of changed, it used to be about playing for me but I've realised it's bigger than that to play for your country. I've had mums and dads say their kids watched us play and now they want to be like us, I think we're like role models for them so going over there it's really cool to try to inspire people and grow the game."
The Filipino team now looks ahead to Olympic qualifiers in November before the South East Asia Games in December.
"It's quite a big year for us, we've never qualified for the Olympics before, in rugby, so we want to do well in that. We have the Asian Circuit again as well which is August to October. From now to then I'm just doing a lot of speed and rugby training."