The first round of the World Rugby Sevens Series has set up nicely with the announcement of the men’s pools for the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens.
Following on from rugby sevens’ debut at the Olympics in August, both the men’s and women’s heroes from Rio 2016 will descend on Dubai for the series opener.
The 12-team women’s tournament kicks off on 1-2 December, followed by the 16-team men’s opener on 2-3 December.
The men’s draw took place live on World Rugby Sevens’ Facebook page with some exciting match-ups in the pipeline. The women’s schedule will be announced in due course.
POOL A: FIJI, ARGENTINA, CANADA, WALES
Olympic gold medal winners and 2015-16 series champions Fiji will look to defend their Dubai title in Pool A this year.
The Pacific Islanders will enter the competition with a new head coach after Ben Ryan’s decision to bow out after Rio, but they will be hot favourites to come away with silverware following back-to-back series wins.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s head coach Santiago Gomez Cora will be hoping to build on their fifth place finish on the 2015-16 series with a strong opening performance in Dubai.
Canada and Wales, slow starters in Dubai last year with a Shield win and Bowl semi-final respectively, will be targeting the opener as a kick starter to their campaign.
POOL B: SOUTH AFRICA, USA, SCOTLAND, 16TH TEAM
Olympics bronze medallists, series runners-up in 2015-16 and Plate winners in Dubai last year, South Africa will have plenty of motivation heading into the opening round of the series.
USA will also be keen to improve on their third place finish in Dubai last December, a tournament they ended in dramatic fashion after beating New Zealand with a last second drop goal.
Scotland, winners of their first ever tournament back in May when they beat South Africa at the London Sevens, are a force to be reckoned with in Dubai, especially now that they have tasted victory. An invitational 16th team will be added at a later date.
POOL C: NEW ZEALAND, ENGLAND, SAMOA, RUSSIA
With Gordon Tietjens no longer at the helm, New Zealand will have a new look in Dubai, and off the back of a disappointing Olympics campaign, motivation will not be in short supply.
They are joined by England, a team containing Olympic silver medalists after Team GB’s success in Rio, and a Samoa side that showed promise last series after winning the Paris Sevens in May.
POOL D: AUSTRALIA, KENYA, FRANCE, JAPAN
Losing out by one try to South Africa in the Plate final in Dubai last year will be front of mind for Australia, while Kenya will be hoping to replicate their winning form shown last year in Singapore.
France won the Bowl in Dubai last year but overall would have been disappointed with their 11th place finish in the series, despite their two third place finishes in Cape Town and Paris.
Japan, replacing Portugal as a core team for the 2016-17 series, join the circuit having just missed out on a medal at the Olympics. Expect big performances from the newcomers to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
HSBC WORLD RUGBY SEVENS SERIES 2016-17:
Dubai – 2-3 December
Cape Town – 10-11 December
Wellington – 28-29 January
Sydney – 4-5 February
Las Vegas – 3-5 March
Vancouver – 11-12 March
Hong Kong – 7-9 April
Singapore – 15-16 April
Paris – 13-14 May
London – 20-21 May
DUBAI SEVENS TICKETING INFORMATION:
Thursday – FREE ADMISSION
Friday, 2 December – in advance AED300, on the day AED400
Saturday, 3 December – in advance AED300, on the day AED400
Season tickets (Friday and Saturday) – in advance AED500, on the day AED600
Children under 12 admitted free
Special reserved seating and hospitality packages are available, visit: www.dubairugby7s.com
Tickets are available with Skywards Miles – www.emirates.com/skywards
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