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New Zealand out to defend title at World Rugby Sevens Series opener in Dubai
00:38 am GMT+12, 05/12/2019, United Arab Emirates

New Zealand will be looking to defend their title when the opening men's tournament of the 2019-2020 World Rugby Sevens Series is held in Dubai over the coming three days.

Taking place at The Sevens Stadium from tomorrow through to Saturday (December 7) in the United Arab Emirates city, the Dubai Rugby Sevens celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and will bring together 28 of the world's best teams.

Dubai is the first of 10 tournaments in the men's series, culminating with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

New Zealand are the reigning champions after they beat the United States 21-5 in last year's final.

It was their first victory in Dubai since 2009.

The All Blacks Sevens have scored the most points and tries - 28,224 and 4,490, respectively - in the history of the World Rugby Sevens Series and will face Canada, Samoa and Wales, who survived a relegation battle with Japan last season, in Pool C.

Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallists Fiji will be captained by Paula Dranisinukula. 

In a squad made up of some extremely experienced players, including 2019 World Rugby Men's Sevens Player of the Year Jerry Tuwai, one player will make his debut appearance in Dubai.

Kavekini Tabu, 25, is one of three brothers in the Fiji squad and will play alongside siblings Sevuloni Mocenacagi and Isoa Tabu when he takes to the field in the desert tomorrow.

"You need to start early on the series, win tournaments early to be satisfied by the end of the season, then concentrate on the Olympics," Dranisinukula said.

Fiji play in Pool A alongside Argentina, who won the Sudamérica Rugby Sevens in July to secure their place at Tokyo 2020, as well as France and Olympic hosts and invitational side Japan.

Last year's series runners-up, the US, were the only team to reach every Cup semi-final last season and reached their first Cup final in Dubai only to lose to New Zealand.

They only used 17 players last season, the smallest squad of any core team, and their second-place finish was enough to secure their spot at Tokyo 2020.

Facing the U.S in Pool B are Australia, who will hand former sprinter Trae Williams his series debut. 

Williams switched from athletics to rugby sevens in May and has a 100 metres personal best of 10.10sec, ranking him fifth on the Australian all-time list.

Completing the Pool B line-up are Ireland, who are welcomed as the new core team after winning the series qualifier in Hong Kong earlier this year, and Scotland.

As the only team last season to top their pool at every event, South Africa will field a strong and experienced squad for the season opener, with the likes of Chris Dry, Justin Geduld and Seabelo Senatla named in Neil Powell's team.

After Philip Snyman recently announced his retirement from international rugby sevens, the Blitzboks will be captained by Siviwe Soyizwapi, who made his World Rugby Sevens Series debut in Hong Kong in 2016.

Joining South Africa in Pool D are England, who qualified Great Britain for Tokyo 2020 by winning the Rugby Europe tournament this summer, Kenya and Spain.

Pool stage action in Dubai will be spread across tomorrow and Friday (December 6).

Competition will then conclude on Saturday, when the knockout stages are held through to the Cup final.

SOURCE: INSIDETHEGAMES/PACNEWS

 


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