Greg O’Shea (Ireland).Ireland are a new team in the main competition at the Sevens, but one of their players might be the most recognisable face in the whole event. Although not necessarily to a rugby audience. O’Shea won the British reality TV show Love Island during the summer. Now he is back at his day job, as a rugby player with the Ireland sevens side who start their campaign against United States at 6.12pm on Thursday. Photo by Shutterstock
Seabelo Senatla (South Africa). This season culminates in the Olympic Games in Tokyo, and South Africa clearly mean business as they plan towards that event. Their second-string Academy side, who are playing in the International Invitational, contains two former World Rugby sevens players of the year. And Senatla, the jet-heeled wing, has returned from Super rugby to represent the Blitzboks at this event. AFP
Jerry Tuwai (Fiji). Nominated to be sevens players of the year in each of the last three seasons, he was finally crowned it for the first time last month. The accolade is well merited. The Fiji playmaker might be the most skilful player on the circuit, and his excellence underpinned their world series title win last season. AFP
Perry Baker (United States). Beating Jerry Tuwai to the top individual award in the format two seasons in a row takes a special kind of talent. No-one else has been named sevens player of the year twice since the accolade was inaugurated in 2004. Baker’s free-scoring exploits have turned USA from also-rans into contenders. They were runners up in Dubai, and on the series as a whole, last season. AFP
Trae Williams (Australia). Nicknamed “Quadzilla” and described as having “the biggest legs in world sport”, the 22-year-old Australian will be making his sevens debut in Dubai. He swapped from athletics in May, having clocked a 100m sprint best of 10.10sec in that sport. That is the fifth fastest of all time for an Australian. AFP
Kelly Brazier (New Zealand). The 30-year-old scored the try which won gold for New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games last year. It was another medal to add to an already impressive pile. Brazier has won World Cups four times with New Zealand – twice in the abridged format and twice in the 15-a-side game. AFP
Cecil Afrika (SA 7s Academy). There have been few more watchable players in sevens over the past decade than the playmaker who was central to South Africa’s glory years. Afrika is back at The Sevens this weekend, although not in the main competition. He is turning out in the International Invitational for an SA 7s Academy side that also includes Werner Kok and Branco du Preez. AFP
Nick Easter (Joining Jack). Joining Jack, a charity side who raise awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, usually arrive in Dubai with some of the leading names from rugby league – but they often fall short in the International Vets because of a lack of union nous.
They have recruited a wealth of that in one fell swoop this year, in the form of the 54-cap former England No 8 Nick Easter. Getty Images
Orene Ai’i (Christina Noble). The World Rugby sevens player of the year in 2005, when he was the star of an all-conquering New Zealand side. Even in retirement he has tasted success in Dubai. He was the key man when Christina Noble’s charity side won the International Vets in 2014. He is back with them as the side make their return after a year out.Getty Images
Evania Pelite (Australia). If history is a guide, then Australia’s women are nailed on to win the women’s world series tournament, given that they always take it in turns with New Zealand to win. Australia won the Dubai title in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Pelite was the standout player when they thrashed the United States in that final two years ago. Getty Images
Saki Naisau (Dubai Hurricanes). Dubai Hurricanes won the Gulf Men’s League title for the first time in 12 years last season. Naisau had only just joined the club back then, but was still well used to disappointment, having lost four previous Pitch One finals. His first winners’ medal was well-deserved. The UAE national team centre has long been one of the standout players in the domestic game. Reem Mohammed / The National
Dan Norton (England). The leading try-scorer in sevens history. He ticked off his 300th try in this tournament 12 months ago. By the end of the season, he had advanced his tally to 338.
He will again provide the firepower as England go in search of a first Emirates International Trophy win since 2011. Getty Images