Nine months out from rugby sevens' debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the pools and match schedule have been announced for the opening round of the new World Rugby Sevens Series, for both men and women, in Dubai.
With global excitement building ahead of sevens' biggest season, the world's top players representing 28 national teams will compete at the Dubai Rugby Sevens from December 3-5, 2015. The 12-team women's tournament will be played on 3-4 December and the 16-team men's event on 4-5 December.
In the men's competition, reigning series champions Fiji head Pool A and kick off proceedings against Canada with further ties against Japan and Argentina, while Dubai's defending champions and the series' second-ranked side last season, the Blitzboks of South Africa, start in Pool B against Scotland, Samoa and newly promoted core team Russia.
Twelve-time series champions New Zealand face matches against USA, who are the most recent cup winners at the 2014-15 series finale in London, as well as France and Portugal in Pool C, while in Pool D the fourth-ranked side in last year's series England line up against Australia, Wales and Kenya.
In the women's draw, New Zealand will kick off both their series and Dubai title defences against France, Russia and Brazil in Pool A. Rivals Canada and USA meet in Pool B alsongside Fiji and Ireland while Australia are the top seed in Pool C where they'll face England, Spain and series newcomers Japan.
World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "These are exciting and ground-breaking times for rugby sevens as we head into an Olympic Games year and now is the opportunity for our top men's and women's players to showcase their talents to new audiences on sport's greatest stage.
"With new iconic locations, new star players and anticipated record attendances, broadcast and social media exposure, never before has there been so much excitement ahead of a new season of sevens. The road to Rio 2016 promises to be both competitive and compelling and I am sure we will attract, engage and inspire record numbers of new fans along the way.”
Dubai Sevens Pools
Pool A: Fiji, Argentina, Canada, Japan
Pool B: South Africa, Scotland, Samoa, Russia
Pool C: New Zealand, USA, France, Portugal
Pool D: England, Australia, Wales, Kenya
Dubai Womens' Sevens Pools
Pool A: New Zealand, France, Russia, Brazil
Pool B: Canada, USA, Fiji, Ireland
Pool C: Australia, England, Spain, Japan
World Rugby Sevens Series 2015-16
Round 1 – Dubai, Dec 4-5 2015
Round 2 – Cape Town, Dec 12-13 2015
Round 3 – Wellington, Jan 30-31 2016
Round 4 – Sydney, Feb 6-7 2016
Round 5 – Las Vegas, Mar 4-6 2016
Round 6 – Vancouver, Mar 12-13 2016
Round 7 – Hong Kong, April 8-10 2016
Round 8 – Singapore, April 16-17 2016
Round 9 – Paris, May 14-15 2016
Round 10 – London, May 21-22 2016
Men's series core teams: Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand, England, Australia, USA, Scotland, Argentina, Canada, Samoa, France, Wales, Kenya, Portugal, Russia.
World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2015-16
Round 1 – Dubai, Dec 3-4 2015
Round 2 – Sao Paulo, Feb 20-21 2016
Round 3 – Atlanta, Apr 8-9 2016
Round 4 – Langford, Apr 16-17 2016
Women's series core teams: New Zealand, Canada, Australia, England, USA, France, Russia, Fiji, Spain, Ireland, Japan.