Rugby sevens is set for a triumphant return to centre stage at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai with Olympic gold medallists and defending series champions Fiji the team to beat.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is set to reignite the passion of the millions of new global fans when the highly anticipated first round kicks off on December 1.
The draw for round one of the men’s series took place live on World Rugby Sevens’ Facebook channel and it looks set to be a thriller, with the announcement of some intriguing match-ups at the Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby Sevens.
Pool A: Fiji, Argentina, Canada, Wales
Fresh from claiming their country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal, 2015-16 series champions Fiji will return to The Sevens Stadium as they seek to defend their Dubai title in Pool A.
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 still be hot favourites to come away with silverware following back-to-back series wins.
Meanwhile, Argentina, who starred in one of Rio’s closest and most exciting matches when they lost to Great Britain in the Olympic quarter-finals, will be hoping to build on their fifth-place finish on the 2015-16 series with a strong opening performance in Dubai.
Wales and Canada, 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
Olympic bronze medalists, series runner-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 dropped goal.
Scotland, winners of their first-ever tournament back in May when they beat South Africa at the London Sevens, promise to be a force to be reckoned with in Dubai, especially now that they have tasted victory. An invitational 16th team will be added in due course.
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 GB’s success in Rio, and a Samoa side that showed promise in the last series after winning the Paris Sevens in May.
Pool D: Australia, Kenya, France, Japan
Finishing eighth in Rio was disappointing for Australia’s men and they will hope to get a good start in Dubai as they look to get back to winning ways.
Kenya, will be hoping to replicate their winning form shown last year at the Singapore tournament, but they too had a disappointing Olympics, finishing in 11th place.
France, who won the Bowl in Dubai last year, would have been disappointed with their 11th place finish on 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, beating New Zealand in yet another giant-killing performance from the Brave Blossoms.
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2016-17:
Dubai – December 2-3
Cape Town – December 10-11
Wellington – January 28-29
Sydney – February 4-5
Las Vegas – March 3-5
Vancouver – March 11-12
Hong Kong – April 7-9
Singapore – April 15-16
Paris – May 13-14
London – May 20-21