Round two of the 2014/15 World Sevens Series takes place in Dubai on 5 and 6 December, and the stakes for the men’s teams will be higher than ever before.
The Rio 2016 Olympic qualifying path adds spice to an already tough competition with the top four teams at the end of the season qualifying for the Olympics.
Fiji sit in top spot after winning the Gold Coast Sevens and head into the weekend as the defending champions. 2012 Dubai Sevens winners Samoa are second following an impressive showing in Australia, while England and South Africa complete the top four.
Defending Series champions New Zealand and the remaining 10 core teams will all be looking to close the gap on the leaders, while eyes will also be on Brazil who are appearing as the non-core side in Dubai having already been guaranteed a spot in Rio as hosts.
Fiji start the defence of their title in Pool A against France before facing Brazil and Argentina, while Samoa will take on New Zealand, Scotland and Japan in Pool B.
Pool C includes England, Australia, USA and Kenya while South Africa, Wales, Portugal and Canada make up Pool D.
“There is no secret that Dubai is a very competetive tournament,” said England captain Tom Mitchell.
“We always love coming here.
“For us it is a massive honour to be nominated as the qualification team for Team GB but we know we need to improve on last year, and the tournament before, to keep improving.
“There is enough to incentivise us here in Dubai before we look at the Olympics.”
Fiji head into the tournament as defending champions and current series leaders, which adds to the pressure for their captain Osea Kolinisau.
“There is more pressure after winning in Australia, and as the defending champions, but also as all teams are gunning for a spot in Rio,” said Kolinisau.
“We are just looking to build on our performances and keep in that top four.
“We are happy with the team we have despite losing three players from the Gold Coast.
“The work we have put in means that all the boys deserve their place in the team and we’re excited to run out at the weekend.”
Fiji head coach Ben Ryan loves coming to Dubai.
He has won three of the last four Cup titles as coach, and a fourth in five years would see his side not only take another step towards Olympic qualification but also, suprisingly, win back-to-back titles for the first time.
Having won the Gold Coast title, and heading to the Sevens Stadium as defending champions, Ryan believes he has the side capable of creating history.
“Fiji have never won two tournaments in a row, ever, so we have the opportunity to do that, and I have the team to do that,” explained Ryan.
“A win here would give us some serious breathing space in terms of Rio, especially if we can back that up in South Africa with a win which is our goal. That would send us into 2015 with a huge tailwind.”
Last year Fiji memorably inflicted New Zealand’s heaviest defeat in the semi-final before beating South Africa in the final. Pundits and fans alike compared their performances in Australia to that of Dubai 12 months ago.
Pools for Dubai Sevens
Pool A: Fiji, Argentina, France, Brazil
Pool B: Samoa, New Zealand, Scotland, Japan
Pool C: England, Australia, USA, Kenya
Pool D: South Africa, Wales, Portugal, Canada
With thanks to World Rugby