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).
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