The women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 gets under way on Friday as the best 12 women’s teams and 16 men’s teams in the world take to the pitch at The Sevens Stadium for what promises to be a bumper edition of the popular Emirates Dubai 7s.
Dubai has hosted the Series since its inception in 1999, and the event has built a strong reputation for spectacular entertainment, on and off the pitch, hosting the world’s top players and teams and creating a party atmosphere around the venue.
While the men’s Series kicked off in Hong Kong last month, the women’s Series gets started in Dubai as the 28 team captains gathered on Tuesday at the View at the Palm and are raring to play in front of the famously noisy and colourful crowd filling the Sevens Stadium.
Matches will be played across two pitches and kick off at 9:00 local time (GMT+4) on Friday, 2 December with Ireland against Spain in Pool C of the women's competition. Following two full days of action-packed rugby sevens the women’s final will take place at 18:56 on Saturday, 3 December, followed by the men’s final at 19:26.
The women’s pools for Dubai see the all-conquering world, Commonwealth and Series champions Australia in Pool A alongside the USA, Canada and China. In Pool B reigning Olympic champions New Zealand will face France, Great Britain and Brazil. Pool C sees Olympic bronze medallists Fiji together with Ireland, Spain and newly promoted Japan.
In the men’s tournament, Pool A sees current number one ranked and 2022 Series champions Australia together with reigning Dubai title holders South Africa, Great Britain and Kenya. Pool B includes double Olympic gold medallists Fiji along with Argentina, New Zealand and Uruguay. Pool C features third seeds France taking on Ireland, Spain and Uganda. Finally, Pool D has Samoa, the USA, Canada and Japan.
The 2023 Series promises to be the biggest, most competitive and exciting Series to date with more at stake than ever before as the top four ranked men’s and women’s teams will earn Olympic qualification for Paris 2024.
At the other end of the table in the men’s competition the number of teams for the 2024 Series will reduce from 16 to 12 to equal the number of women’s teams and align with the Olympic competition structure, meaning fans can expect an intense battle to avoid relegation throughout the 2023 Series with every match and every point counting towards the final Series rankings.
Australia women's co-captain Demi Hayes said: “We are really excited to get started. We had an awesome season last season and I guess our expectations are nothing less than that. We've worked really hard this pre-season, so we’re just really excited to start here in Dubai.
“We love having the best of the best out there to play against so having New Zealand and Fiji back, as they were missing here last year, is really awesome. I think our team really vibes a lot when we have an awesome crowd and it's really loud in Dubai so I think that'll only help us to perform and I think that will make us play better. It's awesome to have a big atmosphere.”
South Africa men's captain Siviwe Soyizwapi said: “Preparations have been going well for us. We can take a lot of confidence from the camp back at home and the past two days in Dubai have been great as well, being out on the field in the heat so it's been good.
“We enjoy playing in Dubai. It gets hot this time of the year in Cape Town, so I think it's always good preparation for us coming into Dubai. There's a lot of confidence that we can take from the previous years, however I think we always have to start all over again with each tournament. So, we'll take it a step at a time, and I will take this as a brand new tool.
“It's really exciting to have our new coaches in the frame with new ideas that are coming through and I think you will see something new this coming weekend with two new debutantes as well which brings something different that they can add to the squad, so I’m really excited to see it.”
Great Britain women’s co-captain Meg Jones said: “We’re back as a Great Britain squad and we've had a good six-week block training block. With a new coach, new strength and conditioning, new physio, a couple of new faces and also many familiar faces.
“It's now opening up the pool of players and making it way more competitive, pushing the performance and our boundaries as much as we can. I think we're really looking forward to seeing where we are at the moment, and then see where we can go with it.
“Dubai is one of the one of the greatest legs and we love coming out here. The views are amazing. The fans are amazing, the whole event is amazing. So yeah, to be out here with the rest of the gang is good, you know, friends off the pitch, but obviously enemies on the pitch. It's going to be a good test.
“This whole journey is an amazing journey to be part of and hopefully we can make it to the Paris 2024 Olympics, which will be the icing on top of the cake, but in terms of longevity and the future of GB sevens, were also set on pushing the boundaries and creating and sustaining a world-class performance.”
Rugby sevens fans around the world can watch the action via live stream on World Rugby digital platforms including www.world.rugby, You Tube and Facebook in countries where there is no national broadcaster covering the event.