Preview: Dubai Sevens

2016-12-01 21:38
Seabelo Senatla (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Fiji will start the defence of their World Rugby Sevens Series title when the 2016/17 version of the event gets underway in Dubai this weekend.

The 16-team tournament was officially launched on Wednesday and the men's competition starts on Friday with the finals taking place on Saturday.

Off the back of a hugely successful Olympic Games in Rio, which saw rugby gain more than 16 million new fans, the 16 teams are preparing for a new Olympic cycle that will set them on course for Tokyo 2020.

The flying Fijians, who kickstarted their triumphant 2015/16 campaign by winning last year's event in Dubai, can expect tough competition from the likes of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and England while countries like Argentina, Kenya, USA and Samoa although seen as underdogs, will not be underestimated.

Fiji's Olympic gold medal-winning captain Osea Kolinisau said their achievement has made a massive difference: "It has been life-changing. You get asked for a lot more photos and you get invited to all sorts of places to try and inspire children. But life is all about changes, and now we start with the new series and we have to readjust, starting here in Dubai." 

2015/16 World Rugby Series runners-up South Africa are keen to get stuck in ahead of the second leg of the series in Cape Town on December 10 and 11. 

Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell is excited about the start of the new campaign as the Blitzbokke are hoping to reach their goals this season.

"It will be important for us to start strong again," said Powell.

"We ended the previous season well with the Olympic Games and all that came with that, but this is a new season and a new start for us again. We need out of the block really well by performing in Dubai and then in Cape Town a week later."

Powell is also keen to get the season underway as part of a four year cycle that will culminate in Tokyo in 2020, when the next Olympic Games will take place.

“We will be bringing in a number of new faces during the season as we have to increase our depth," he added.

"Some of the current players will not make it through to the next Olympics, so it will be important to identify and develop the right players with an eye to the future. We must not lose sight of the fact that we still need to be in a position to win tournaments and the overall series, but the additional goal of finding the next generation of players adds to what promises to be an exciting series for all of us."

All Blacks Sevens stalwart DJ Forbes is in line to achieve the all-time tournament appearance record when he runs out at the Dubai Sevens.

Forbes who debuted for the All Blacks Sevens in 2006, said he was relishing the opportunity to get a milestone new season under way in Dubai.   

"Growing up you just want to get out there and play as hard as you can and as good as you can and treat each game as your last," he said.


"For me to be here 11 years later and 80 tournaments down the track is pretty special. It’s a really proud moment for my family and friends who have supported me along the way. It’s been a huge sacrifice for them to allow me to be here this long." 

World Rugby also announced that the upcoming series will see Hawk-Eye replay technology used for head injury assessments (HIAs) and judicial decisions during matches at all rounds of the men's and women's series. 

In a move that will further enhance player welfare, Hawk-Eye, which was used successfully at Rugby World Cup 2015, will allow medics to review any suspected head injuries in real time with different angles.

World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Martin Raftery said: "Player welfare is World Rugby's number-one priority and this is another initiative designed to make the game safer for players. This technology will ensure that medics can further scrutinise any contact in real time to determine the need for a head injury assessment.”

The World Rugby Sevens Series will be broadcast to more than 100 countries around the world this season.

Pools for Dubai 7s:

Pool A: Fiji, Argentina, Wales, Canada
Pool B: South Africa, USA, Scotland, Uganda
Pool C: New Zealand, England, Samoa, Russia
Pool D:  Australia, Kenya, France, Japan

Read more on:    neil powell  |  sevens  |  rugby


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