The countdown to Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 begins in earnest following the Pool Allocation Draw for the men’s and women’s events at The Atlantis hotel in Dubai on Monday.
The IRB reports that for the first time ever a 16-team women’s event will run alongside the traditional 24-team men’s competition at Dubai’s magnificent new venue ‘The Sevens’ from 5-7 March.
The draw was carried out by Bernard Lapasset, the Chairman of Rugby World Cup Limited, with Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein and His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group.
In the men’s draw the eight Melrose Cup quarter finalists from 2005 pre-qualified along with the host nation Arabian Gulf, while 15 other nations booked their places through tournaments held across the IRB’s six regions. The women’s teams all came through a competitive global qualifying process involving 83 nations.
England, the top seeds in the women’s competition, will face Japan, Russia and USA in Pool B, while second seeds and Oceania champions Australia are joined in Pool A by Netherlands, France and China.
North America champions Canada will meet Brazil – the first nation to qualify for the inaugural tournament, along with Spain and Thailand in Pool C, with New Zealand drawn with South Africa, Italy and Uganda in Pool D.
In the men’s draw, defending champions Fiji will face France, USA and Georgia in Pool B as they attempt to become the first side to successfully defend the Melrose Cup following their success in Hong Kong four years ago.
New Zealand, winners in 2001, are joined in Pool A by Tonga, hosts Arabian Gulf and Italy, while IRB Sevens World Series leaders South Africa find Scotland, Canada and Japan awaiting them in Pool C in Dubai.
Fourth seeds Samoa will face Australia, Portugal and Ireland in Pool D, while 1993 champions England tackle Kenya, Tunisia and Hong Kong in Pool E. The remaining pool brings together Argentina, Wales, Zimbabwe and Uruguay.
The six pool winners and best two runners up will progress to the Melrose Cup quarter finals, the four other runners up and four best sides that finish third in their pool will contest the Plate and the remaining sides the Bowl.
The match schedule will be announced shortly.
Pool A – New Zealand, Tonga, Arabian Gulf, Italy.
Pool B – Fiji, France, USA, Georgia,
Pool C – South Africa, Scotland, Canada, Japan
Pool D – Samoa, Australia, Portugal, Ireland,
Pool E – England, Kenya, Tunisia, Hong Kong
Pool F – Argentina, Wales, Zimbabwe, Uruguay
Pool A – Australia, Netherlands, France, China
Pool B – England, Japan, Russia, USA
Pool C – Canada, Brazil, Spain, Thailand
Pool D – New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Uganda