With exactly 41 days left, it's all systems go for hosts Dubai as the draw for the Sevens Rugby World Cup was completed this week.
It will be the first time the emirate hosts the event, but judging by the popularity of the annual Sevens series tournament, for which the organisers revealed more than 100,000 people attended last November, it could yet be the most successful in history.
On Monday, the International Rugby Board (IRB) did their best to prevent a potential 'Group of Death' by dividing the 12 top seeded teams among six groups. The remaining 12 sides though – including the Arabian Gulf – were drawn randomly.
So not only will fans not witness any New Zealand-South Africa or Fiji-Samoa clashes on day one at The Sevens, the chances of seeing a low-ranked team progress through to the Melrose Cup quarter-finals are pretty much non-existent now.
The draw has left the Arabian Gulf in a nightmare group A against New Zealand, Tonga and Italy. Both the Southern Hemisphere teams are renowned for their strong physical play, which leaves only the latter as a possibility for the hosts to achieve their goal of securing a win on the first day.
However, it will be no mean feat, as no doubt the Six-Nations participants will call upon some of their experienced 15s players as they continue to build their reputation in the game.
Defending World Cup Champions Fiji have a relatively easy group, as have last year's Dubai Sevens finalists England and South Africa.
The trickiest of the six groups is Group D, which pits Samoa, Australia, Portugal and Ireland against each other. The Australians are generally not strong at Sevens, but if they field some of their 15s stars they may be able to give Samoa a scare, while Ireland and Portugal are also both capable of causing an upset.
The six group winners and two of the best runners-up will automatically progress to the Cup quarter-finals. The remaining four runners-up and four of the best sides that finish third in their pool will contest the Plate, with the rest playing for the Bowl.
This set-up gives teams the incentive to play a more attractive attacking game in order to stay on track to progress, which ultimately will benefit the spectators.
Meanwhile, the World Cup will feature the first ever women's competition with 16 teams having been placed in the draw. Top seeds England were put in a group with Japan, Russia and the USA.
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
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