Preview: Dubai Sevens

Date published: December 3 2015

The Dubai Sevens will kick off the World Rugby Sevens Series on Friday, in what is the biggest year ever for the shortened version of the game.

South Africa are the defending Dubai champions, a venue where they have managed to reach the previous two Cup Finals. 

The Dubai Sevens kick-off an extended ten tournament World Series which will culminate in the Rio Olympics in August next year, when the shortened version of the game will feature for the first time. 

Philippe Bourdarias, World Rugby General Manager for Competitions said there's plenty of excitement ahead of the new series.

“Dubai represents the start of an exciting journey for World Rugby as we get set for a massive season ahead," he remarked. 

"With the Men's Series expanded to 10 iconic destinations around the globe as we continue the journey towards the Olympic Games in Rio 2016, we have the opportunity to reach and inspire new audiences and all teams look forward to showcasing our sport on the greatest stage of them all."

Dubai will be followed by the South African leg of the series in Cape Town a week later.

South Africa face Samoa, Russia and then Scotland in a tricky Pool B fixtures list in Dubai.

The Blitzbokke have named a familiar squad with Kyle Brown captaining a side that includes the sevens player of the year Werner Kok, and nominee Seabelo Senatla while senior Springbok Francois Hougaard also comes in.

Another Bok, Juan de Jongh, is named by his former captain in Sevens, and now coach, Neil Powell.

After finishing the 2014/15 season at the top of the World Series' rankings, Fiji will be looking to defend their title ahead of the Olympics.

Fiji have one debutant in Sevuloni Mocenacagi as Ben Ryan includes many familiar names from the winning champions including Jerry Tuwai, Savenaca Rawaca, Isake Kotanibau and captain Osea Kolinisau.

They kick off proceedings in Pool A against Canada in the tournament's opening match before facing Japan and Argentina. 

After their successful 2014/15 campaign, Kolinisau knows there will be plenty of pressure on his side.

"When you are defending champions, there is always pressure," he said. 

"Everybody tries to knock you off your pedestal. Training has been hard in the build up to Dubai as we know it’s always hard to defend a title.

"We have beefed up a lot of our training and most players have put on a bit of weight. We know that a lot of teams are gunning for us and for the series."

In Pool C, New Zealand get their campaign underway against France before taking on Portugal and the United States in their other matches on Day One. The Kiwis will be highly motivated to do well after finishing third in World Series rankings last season.

Pool D will be viewed as the Pool of Death with last year's runners-up Australia, doing battle with England, Wales and Kenya to advance to the knockout stages.

Canada are the most experienced side with Phil Mack returning to add 45 tournaments' worth of experience, while the series' new core team Russia have seven players with experience including Vladimir Ostroushko and Yury Gostyuzhev each having played in 18 previous tournaments. 

Wales are the least experienced side with just 50 caps between their 12 players, and Sam Cross possessing with 18 of those.

Australia have three debutants but Con Foley needs just two more tries to reach 50 career tries and Gillies Kaka needs one more for the same landmark for New Zealand, who have one debutant in Augustine Pulu.

Pools for Dubai Sevens:
Pool A: Fiji, Argentina, Canada, Japan
Pool B: South Africa, Scotland, Samoa, Russia
Pool C: New Zealand, United States, France, Portugal
Pool D: England, Australia, Wales, Kenya

Day One, schedule – Friday, December 4
(Kick-off is local time – GMT plus four hours)
Fiji v Canada – 09:00
Argentina v Japan – 09:22
South Africa v Samoa – 09:44
Scotland v Russia – 10:06
New Zealand v France – 10:30
United States v Portugal – 10:52
England v Wales – 11:14
Australia v Kenya – 11:36
Fiji v Japan – 12:00
Argentina v Canada – 12:22
South Africa v Russia – 12:44
Scotland v Samoa – 13:06
New Zealand v Portugal – 14:14
United States v France – 14:36
England v Kenya – 14:58
Australia v Wales – 15:20
Canada v Japan – 18:06
Fiji v Argentina – 18:28
Samoa v Russia – 18:50
South Africa v Scotland – 19:12
France v Portugal – 19:36
New Zealand v United States – 19:58
Wales v Kenya – 20:20
England v Australia – 20:42

With thanks to World Rugby