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 HSBC 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 Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens from 3-5 December, 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.
FULL MEN'S POOLS AND MATCH SCHEDULE >>
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.
FULL WOMEN'S POOLS AND MATCH SCHEDULE >>
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.”
Giles Morgan, Global Head of Sponsorship and Events, HSBC Holdings, said: "HSBC is a committed long-term supporter of rugby and rarely has there been a more exciting moment for the game. Following a spectacular Rugby World Cup, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series has a unique opportunity to drive the game onwards to the gold medal opportunity of Rio 2016.
"As rugby sevens breaks into new and unchartered territory, the next 10 months will be the catalyst for even greater growth, participation and engagement. As title sponsors of both the Men's and Women's Series for the first time, we are looking forward to providing support throughout that journey.”
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2015-16
- Round 1 – Dubai 4-5 Dec 2015
- Round 2 - Cape Town 12-13 Dec 2015
- Round 3 - Wellington 30-31 Jan 2016
- Round 4 - Sydney 6-7 Feb 2016
- Round 5 - Las Vegas 4-6 Mar 2016
- Round 6 - Vancouver 12-13 Mar 2016
- Round 7 - Hong Kong 8-10 April 2016
- Round 8 - Singapore 16-17 April 2016
- Round 9 - Paris 14-15 May 2016
- Round 10 - London 21-22 May 2016
*Men's series core teams: Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand, England, Australia, USA, Scotland, Argentina, Canada, Samoa, France, Wales, Kenya, Portugal, Russia.
HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2015-16
- Round 1 - Dubai 3-4 Dec 2015
- Round 2 - Sao Paulo 20-21 Feb 2016
- Round 3 - Atlanta 8-9 Apr 2016
- Round 4 - Langford 16-17 Apr 2016
*Women's series core teams: New Zealand, Canada, Australia, England, USA, France, Russia, Fiji, Spain, Ireland, Japan.