Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 January 2020

Dubai Sevens: Thursday's five must-see games including New Zealand v Wales

Admission for the first day of the 2019 Dubai Sevens is free

Fans enjoy the atmosphere at the Dubai Rugby Sevens at The Sevens Stadium, Dubai. Jake Badger for The National
Fans enjoy the atmosphere at the Dubai Rugby Sevens at The Sevens Stadium, Dubai. Jake Badger for The National

The 50th Dubai Rugby Sevens kicks off on Thursday. For the first time, men’s World Series matches will be played on the opening evening of the three-day rugby festival.

But they are not the only games worth heading to The Sevens for on a day when admission is free.

11.40am, Pitch Seven, International Vets

Christina Noble Children’s Foundation v TXL Scorpions

Two sides playing this weekend include two former World Sevens players of the year in their ranks – and neither of those are included in the main tournament.

Christina Noble, who have been serial winners of the International Vets in the past, have Orene Ai’I, who won that award in 2005, and Afeleke Pelenise, who won it in 2007, in their squad.

1.20pm, Pitch Two, International Invitational

SA 7s Academy v The Rambling Jesters

The other side with two world players of the year in their line up are the SA 7s Academy, who will be bidding to go one better than last year, when they lost the International Invitational final to Ireland.

Given the stardust in their squad, they would be a good shout to win the World Series tournament, let alone the competition one tier down. They have Werner Kok, Cecil Afrika - both past sevens players of the year - and South Africa’s most capped sevens player, Branco du Preez, in their team.

3.12pm, Pitch One, Women’s World Series

Australia v Fiji

Australia’s world series campaign last season was far below their usual high standards, as they finished fourth, behind New Zealand, United States and Canada.

They usually excel when the Olympics are in sight, though, and where better to begin their revival than at a tournament they have won every other year since 2013.

5.28pm, Pitch One, World Sevens Series

New Zealand v Wales

Samoa and Canada will be the first men’s world series sides to play a Thursday match in Dubai. Following straight on after them on Pitch One will be a repeat of the third-place fixture at the XVs World Cup in Japan.

New Zealand begin the defence of their Dubai title against a Wales side who finished a lowly 14th on the series last season.

Their players will have an eye on selection for the Great Britain Olympics team for next year’s Tokyo Games.

7pm, Pitch Four, Gulf Men’s League

Dubai Hurricanes v Dubai Exiles

The opening pool matches in the domestic league competition at The Sevens pits together the two previous winners of the tournament.

Dubai Hurricanes will begin their title defence when they face their fellow tenants at The Sevens, the Exiles, who were the club that first founded this tournament in 1970.

Updated: December 4, 2019 04:20 PM

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