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."
Angus O'Brien has quickly settled into the Wales Sevens squad after solid performances in Hong Kong and Japan. With two rounds remaining in Glasgow and Twickenham on the World Series, WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie chats to the rising star.
Wales winger Luke Morgan has established himself as one of the deadliest finishers on the Sevens World Series. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie catches up with him on the eve of this weekend's round in Glasgow.
All roads lead to Cardiff on Sunday for the SSE SWALEC Finals Day at the Millennium Stadium. Cambrian Welfare tackle Ystradgynlais in the Bowl final, Ystrad Rhondda play Newcastle Emlyn in the Plate final while defending champions Pontypridd face Bridgend in the Cup final.
WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates and WRU Chairman Gareth Davies earlier this week launched a new competition in conjunction with the WRU unveiling its archive room.
Welsh players and management joined Deputy Minister for Sport Ken Skates at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay earlier this week to reveal the Union's pioneering school-club hub initiative has been so successful the project will now almost double the scale of the original project.
The Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys look ahead to Judgement Day III which sees the Blues take on the Ospreys (2.30) and the Dragons tackle the Scarlets (4.45pm) at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Ystradgynlais and Ynysddu played out a titanic struggle at Taffs Well in the SSE SWALEC Bowl semi-final. At the end of the game neither team could be separated after a 15-15 stalemate but Ystradgynlais go through on try count.
Blues strike first in JD III battle - Newport Gwent Dragons lock Andrew Coombs, WRU referee Dylan Llyr Jones and Cardiff Blues hooker Matthew Rees decide dressing room allocations for Judgement Day III
Wales Under 18 captain Calum Haggett has received a conditional offer to read Biomedical Science at St Anne's College, Oxford. WRU chairman Gareth Davies went to meet Calum and Coleg y Cymoedd Principal Judith Evans to wish him luck in his exams and pass on some of his personal experience.