The countdown to Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 begins in earnest following the Pool Allocation Draw for the men's and women's competitions at The Atlantis hotel in Dubai on Monday, January 19.
Twenty-four men's teams and, for the first time, 16 women's team will battle it out to be crowned world champions 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.
Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 will feature the first ever women's competition with 16 teams having come through a competitive qualifying process involving 83 nations across the IRB's six regions.
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.
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
Defending men's champions Fiji have been drawn with 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.
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
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.
Tickets are available through the official website, while a range of international travel packages are available to residents in Argentina, Australia, France, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, United Kingdom and the USA through the official travel partner Gullivers Travel via www.gulliverstravel.co.uk.
Tickets are also on sale locally in Dubai through the Emirates Headquarters, the Dnata Travel Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road, at Costa outlets (Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall, Al Wahda Mall Abu Dhabi) and MMI outlets (Al Wasl Road, Ibn Battuta Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Road).
The on and off-field benefits of schools and colleges employing a full time rugby officer as part of the WRU's school club hub initiative continue to grow with the publication of the first half term figures of the current academic year.
Despite being in a tough group for the World Series opener in Dubai, Wales 7s head coach Gareth Williams says it is an exciting challenge and his squad are in a positive frame of mind, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers.
Wales 7s captain Luke Treharne may have only played once on the World Series, but he has full confidence in his side as they prepare for the opening two rounds of this year's series in Dubai and South Africa, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers.
Wales 7s Manager Steff Thomas believes Luke Treharne has all the attriubutes to be a top class captain. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie hears his reasons why as the squad prepare for the opening two legs of the new World Series in Dubai and South Africa.
The British & Irish Cup kicks off this weekend with the four Regional Premiership Select XVs flying the flag for Wales. Welsh
Sat 14 Nov: Blues Premiership Select v Nottingham (2.30) & Connacht Eagles v Dragons (2.30)
Sun 15 Nov: Yorkshire Carnegie v Ospreys Premiership Select (1.30) & Scarlets v Bedford Blues (3.00)
The Welsh Rugby Union is forming a new Youth Board with a brief to help keep more young people involved in the game during their late teenage years and beyond. The first task of the fifteen strong Board will be to analyse and consider the issues which lead to a number of youngsters drifting away from the sport between the ages of 16 and 21. To apply visit www.wru.wales/youthboard
The Foster's Challenge Cup will involve the 12 Principality Premiership sides and will run during European and British & Irish Cup weeks, providing vital fixtures for the participating clubs and an opportunity for upcoming players to step up to semi-professional rugby and make a claim for starting places within the Premiership squads.
Eighty schools and colleges in Wales now have a full time rugby officer as part of the WRU's school club hub scheme. All of the school club hub officers recently gathered at the National Centre of Excellence for various workshops.
With Liam Williams forced out of the World Cup through injury, lock Luke Charteris and Skills Coach Neil Jenkins say they have to put yesterday's defeat behind them as Wales now look ahead to another physical encounter against South Africa in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.
WRU Consultant Head of Physical Performance Paul Stridgeon praises the Physical Performance department for their work and dedication as he addresses the media ahead of Wales' Pool A clash against Australia