New Wales Sevens coach Paul John has been thrown in at the deep end in the opening round of the IRB World Series in Dubai with a first outing against reigning champions New Zealand.
Wales are drawn in Pool A for the first of eight events in the grand prix style Series and will also play Australia and Africa 2.
Six months after defending their IRB Sevens World Series crown, New Zealand have been named top seeds at the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens, the first event of the 2008/09 season to be played on 28-29 November 2008.
New Zealand proved unbeatable for much of last season, winning in Dubai and then capturing four further Cup titles on the bounce in George (South Africa), Wellington, San Diego and Hong Kong before finishing the season strongly to defend their Edinburgh crown and rubber-stamp a remarkable season, their eighth Series triumph in nine years.
Their reward is a tough start to the 10th anniversary Sevens season and a mouth-watering clash in Pool A with trans-Tasman rivals Australia, who have a new coach in former test star Michael O'Connor. Wales also start in New Zealand's pool under new coach Paul John and the line-up will be completed by the African qualifier for next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens, to be decided on 31 October - 1 November. .
The Dubai tournament kick-starts seven months of intense international Sevens action, including the eight events on the grand-prix style Series and the Rugby World Cup Sevens, scheduled to be held in Dubai on 5-7 March 2009.
The Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens will be the first event to be played at 'The Sevens', a new purpose-built stadium which will be the headquarters for rugby in the region. The new state-of-the-art facility will also host the Sevens World Cup for both men and women three months later.
"Dubai never fails to deliver a fantastic event for the teams and the fans and this year is historic with the tournament moving to a brand new venue. It's a real opportunity for the teams to get to know the place, and for the venue to establish itself," said Beth Coalter, the IRB's Sevens Manager.
"The big question has to be whether the other teams can hit back at New Zealand's dominance in the last Series, and I think the fact that it is also a World Cup year means that they can," Coalter added.
"As we saw for the last Sevens World Cup in 2005, and during 2006 for the Commonwealth Games, these high-profile events have a tendency to attract more of the top players for the entire season, which can only be a good thing for further increasing the global appeal of Sevens. RWC Sevens 2009 taking place half way through this 10th Series Anniversary year will set new standards."
Wales and Ospreys back row James King, who came through the North Wales age grade system, nominated North Wales Regional Community Rugby Manager Marc Roberts, in the WRU's 'Diolch' initiative where squad players thanked those who played a part in their rise to the top.
Beating Merthyr has boosted Carmarthen Quins hopes of reaching a top eight spot in the Principality Premiership. Quins captain Haydn Pugh is delighted with his team's progress and is determined that everyone from the Under 6s through to the senior team, enjoys the ride.
When the Wales squad were asked to nominate individuals who played a big part in their early playing days, Wales and Dragons full back and wing Hallam Amos thought of his former Monmouth School rugby coach John Bevan.
Sam Cross and Luke Treharne have been named as co-captains of the Wales Sevens side as head coach Gareth Williams names his 12-man squad to play in the first leg of the HSBC World Series in Dubai next weekend.
Bedwas head coach Steve Law and players Nicky Griffiths and Alun Rees extol the virtues of the close knit club as they prepare to host third place RGC 1404 - who are one place head of them on the Principality Premiership points table - on Saturday.
Many of the Wales squad have said Diolch (thank you) to someone who played an important part in their early playing days by nominating them to be invited to the Wales v South Africa match. One person, Gowerton Comprehensive geography teacher Mr Dean Mason was nominated by two of his former pupils, Dan Biggar and Sam Davies.
The second WRU disability rugby pilot has been delivered, this time in Caerphilly schools, culminating in a festival at the Caerphilly Centre of Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach tomorrow. Plans are in place to set up a Disability Rugby Club in Newbridge to provide long-term playing opportunities.
WRU TV: Hear from inside the Wales camp as Neil Jenkins discusses this weekend's clash with South Africa and how the squad are looking to put in a strong performance to round of the 2016 Under Armour Series