The 2017/18 World Sevens Series gets back underway in Dubai this weekend with the Blitzboks looking to retain their title while Fiji, England and New Zealand will be hot on their heels.
The South Africans head into the opening weekend with only one player, Tim Agaba, who didn't make the trip to Dubai last season, while England and New Zealand have also named very experienced squads.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series first came to Dubai 18 years ago and 7 nations (New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, South Africa, England, France and Australia) have played in the final with France and Australia being the only two sides that haven’t lifted the trophy.
South Africa head into the tournaments as the defending champions have won the tournament 5 times while New Zealand - historically - have won the Dubai 7s the most times (6).
Orene Ai’i of New Zealand holds the record for the most tries scored in a single tournament in Dubai - he set the record in 1999.
England holds the record for the most consecutive wins in Dubai (16).
England's Dan Norton has scored the most tries in Dubai (33).
277 – Most points scored by an individual in Dubai in men’s series history, scored by Ben Gollings of England
433 – Tries scored by New Zealand in the Dubai desert, the most by any team on the men’s series. Fiji are next best on 408 with defending champions South Africa third on 365.
Pool A - South Africa, Canada, Kenya, Uganda
Pool B - England, Scotland, France, Spain
Pool C - Fiji, Australia, Wales, Russia
Pool D - New Zealand, USA, Argentina, Samoa
South Africa will be expected to top their Pool with relative easy despite the threat that Canada and Kenya might pose.
England has been drawn as the top seed in Pool B but their road to the playoffs will be challenging with Scotland and France being no pushover.
Fiji has a relatively difficult pool with Australia, Wales and Russia but the Pacific Island side will still be favourites to top the Pool.
New Zealand will be wary of the threat that USA posses and will do well not to be shocked by Argentina or Samoa - two sides that could be difficult to put away.
Players to Watch
The South African has been in fine form in the 15s format of the game and will be a threat to every opposition if he is able to carry that form into the 7s format.
The Blitzbok are not short on attacking threats though with three former World Sevens Players of the Year in Cecil Afrika Werner Kok & Seabelo Senatla as well as the Rosko Specman who was a nominee for the award this year.
The current World Sevens Player of the Year will be a nightmare for all of his opposing defenders.
His blistering pace and strength is a real asset to the USA side and will hope his efforts can propel his side into the playoffs.
The New Zealand 7s co-captain will be hoping he can get his side off to a good start in 2017.
Mikkelson is a powerful ball carrier and has exceptional speed which makes him almost impossible to deal with.
Norton has scored the most tries in Sevens history (261) and has also scored more tries than any other player in Dubai (33).
The English flyer's raw pace is troubling enough alone but paired with his brilliant step and fantastic skill Norton is one of England's most important players.
The new appointed Fiji captain will be looking to build on solid 2016/17 that saw him being nominated for the World Sevens Series Player of the Year award.
Tuwai is a very evasive runner and has a hand in almost all of Fiji's tries.
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