Preview: Dubai Sevens
Preview: Dubai SevensSHARE
The stage is set for the biggest and best Dubai Sevens in the tournament's 43-year history, Round Two of the 2012/13 IRB World Series.
Aiming to stamp their authority on the tournament again will be defending champions England, who are aiming for a hat-trick of wins at the tournament on Friday (November 30) and Saturday (December 1).
They finished third in the 2011/12 Sevens World Series and have made a disappointing start to this campaign, but coach Ben Ryan is hoping they can put a poor showing at the recent Gold Coast Sevens behind them and return to the winners' podium for a third successive year.
"We are desperate to make sure we do everything we possibly can to make it three titles in a row," he said.
"We've got an excellent record in Dubai, better than any other team in the world in the last five years, and now we need to use that to our advantage. We want to retain our trophy and the lads just love playing here."
Hoping to rain on England's parade will be Series champions New Zealand, who have made a strong start to the season, finishing second behind Fiji in Australia.
"Dubai is a climate we like playing in and a tournament we want to win again," said coach, Gordon Tietjens.
"England have won it over the past couple of years, but there are six or seven teams that could win it. Dubai is my favourite tournament out of all of them, it's a great tournament to win. The facilities are first-rate and the support that Emirates Airline gives us is just fantastic.
"The rugby at international level is the highest it can be and Sevens rugby has become a lot stronger in the second fields over the past three or four years. It has made it more interesting and the number of supporters has grown significantly and I believe that the support of the spectators in Dubai is one of the main reasons behind that."
Renowned broadcaster Nigel Starmer-Smith said it's fascinating to see the tactical changes and contrasts in player personnel amongst the 16 squads in the men's event – as coaches almost certainly look to unearth new talent in a season that ends with the Sevens World Cup.
"Take, for example, the Gold Coast champions Fiji," Starmer-Smith, adding: "They won in Surfers Paradise with seven of their side making their debuts. But now head coach Alifereti Dere rings the changes again. In come another seven players who have never yet played for Fiji – I guess his unique problem is that he has too many outstanding players to choose from!
"There are others testing out newcomers too. New Zealand have three rookies alongside two stars from the past on recall, Sherwin Stowers and Kurt Baker, who both last played together at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
"Michael O'Connor has had little choice but to test out new blood for Australia, with four injured from the last tournament in Australia, while Portugal, Wales, Kenya, South Africa, USA, England, Scotland and Argentina also try out new young players interspersed with some former stars, Sidney Ashioya back for Kenya, John Houston for Scotland and Ollie Phillips back for England.
"You get the impression that these first few tournaments are serving a dual purpose for the coaches: obviously to win Series points, but also to sort out early on who might be in contention for a run-out at the World Cup in Moscow next June.
"Amazingly, just three of the 16 countries have taken the men's title in Dubai since the start of the World Series: New Zealand won the first in 1999 and have won six times, South Africa have taken three Cups and England four, including the last two.
"Now the field is wide open, isn't it time that Fiji, Samoa, Australia, even Argentina turned the tables? Fiji last won here in 1998."
Day One schedule – Friday, November 30:
(Kick-off times are local – GMT plus four hours)
Match 1: France v Canada, 09.06
Match 2: Australia v United States, 09.28
Match 3: Fiji v Spain, 09.50
Match 4: Kenya v Scotland, 10.12
Match 5: New Zealand v Wales, 10.36
Match 6: Argentina v Russia, 10.58
Match 7: South Africa v England, 11.20
Match 8: Samoa v Portugal, 11.42
Match 9: France v United States, 12.52
Match 10: Australia v Canada, 13.14
Match 11: Fiji v Scotland, 13.36
Match 12: Kenya v Spain, 13.58
Match 13: New Zealand v Russia, 14.22
Match 14: Argentina v Wales, 14.44
Match 15: South Africa v Portugal, 15.06
Match 16: Samoa v England, 15.28
Match 17: Canada v United States, 16.38
Match 18: Spain v Scotland, 17.00
Match 19: Wales v Russia, 17.22
Match 20: England v Portugal, 17.44
Match 21: France v Australia, 18.36
Match 22: Fiji v Kenya, 18.58
Match 23: New Zealand v Argentina, 19.22
Match 24: South Africa v Samoa, 19.44