Preview: Dubai Sevens
NEW BEGINNINGS: Olympic champions Fiji will have a massive target on their backs when the 2016/17 Sevens World Series get underway in Dubai on Friday.
It is Round One of the 10-tournament series - which will; also see teams stop off in Cape Town, Wellington, Sydney, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris and London.
As both defending World Series champions and Olympic Champions Fiji will start as favourites.
However, they can expect some strong opposition from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
The excitement is certainly building in Dubai.
Off the back of a hugely successful Olympic Games in Rio, which saw the game gain more than 16 million new fans, the teams are preparing for a new Olympic cycle that will set them on course for Tokyo 2020.
Fiji's Olympic gold medal-winning captain Osea Kolinisau said their achievement - of winning the Rio Olympics earlier this year - has made a massive difference.
"It has been life-changing," Kolinisau said.
"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."
South Africa are in Pool B, which means they won't face New Zealand until the play-offs round should they both qualify.
South Africa are drawn with the United States, Scotland and Uganda, while the All Blacks face England, Samoa and Russia.
While New Zealander DJ Forbes stands on the cusp of achieving the all-time tournament appearance record by playing in his 80th tournament there, is plenty of interest across the tournament as a whole as teams kick on from the Olympic experience midway through the year.
South Africa are one team who have plenty to play for - having won just one tournament in last season's series, at home, in Cape Town.
They made the finals in Wellington, Vancouver and London but were beaten on each occasion.
Apart from the big guns - Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia - one team that could prove to be dark horses are Scotland.
The Scots displayed a different style of Sevens from the one they are usually known for and like Fiji they played the ball wide from sideline to sideline and use their fleet footed players to break through the gaps and using the swerve and sidesteps to great effect.
That they did in the final tournament of the 2015/16 World Series and their coach said they wished they had found the winning formula earlier in the season.
Only a couple of players in the Scottish team represented Great Britain in the Rio Olympics and Scottish officials and fans cried foul of the dominance of English players in the GB side in Rio.
While many teams will be trying to beat Fiji to prove a thing or two, Scotland will be on a mission to prove many things and top of the list is GB would have fared better and not be thrashed if more Scottish players were in the team.
England Sevens captain Tom Mitchell believes there will be a different vibe to this year's Sevens World Series which commences in Dubai on Friday.
England will be looking to improve on last year's eighth-place finish, and Mitchell insists those of his team who were involved in GB's success at the Rio Olympics, can draw from the experiences it gave.
"For all the England players involved in that GB journey, it was a really good experience in terms of training in a high level environment with new players coming in," said Mitchell.
"We learnt a lot about ourselves as rugby players.
"We are super excited to get going; it has felt like quite a long break since everything that happened in the summer, so we are really itching to take the field as an England squad."
(Kick-off is local time - GMT plus four hours)
Friday, December 2
Kenya v France - 09.00
Australia v Japan - 09.22
United States v Scotland - 09.44
South Africa v Uganda - 10.06
Argentina v Wales - 10.30
Fiji v Canada - 10.52
England v Samoa - 11.14
New Zealand v Russia - 11.36
Kenya v Japan - 12.00
Australia v France - 12.22
United States v Uganda - 12.44
South Africa v Scotland - 13.06
Argentina v Canada - 14.14
Fiji v Wales - 14.36
England v Russia - 14.58
New Zealand v Samoa - 15.20
France v Japan - 18.00
Australia v Kenya - 18.22
Scotland v Uganda - 18.44
South Africa v United States - 19.06
Wales v Canada - 19.31
Fiji v Argentina - 19.53
Samoa v Russia - 20.15
New Zealand v England - 20.37