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).
Wales U20 face a tough group in the Junior World Championship with France, England and Japan lying in wait but Attack coach Jason Strange and back rower Tom Phillips are looking forward to the campaign ahead.
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