Teams have been announced for Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens 2014

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Current holders: Fiji won the Dubai Rugby Sevens in 2013.

The excitement is building for one of the most popular events in Dubai, with organisers announcing the sixteen teams which will contest the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens on 4-6 December at The Sevens. 

The three day annual rugby extravaganza, now in its 45th year, is one of the biggest and most colourful events on the Dubai sporting and social calendar.

The event is hailed as a great showcase for Dubai, attracting the world’s best players and thousands of tourists from around the world who all enjoy being part of the wonderful atmosphere. In excess of 100,000 visitors are expected to attend this year’s event. 

This year there is even more at stake as the top four finishers will secure a coveted place at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. 

The International Rugby Board (IRB) has announced that the team line-up this year:

New Zealand (defending World Series champions)
Fiji (2013 Dubai Champions)
South Africa (2014 Commonwealth Games gold medalists)
England
Australia, 
Samoa, 
Wales, 
France, 
Canada, 
Kenya, 
Argentina, 
Scotland, 
USA,
Portugal
Japan
 (replaced Spain)
Brazil (newcomers)

The Dubai event is the second leg of the nine-leg HSBC Sevens World Series, with the opening round taking place in Australia from 11-12 October. The best players in the world then head to the UAE, before travelling to South Africa, New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, Japan and Scotland, with the final round being played in England on 16-17 May 2015.

Dubai will also play host to the first round of the six-leg IRB Women’s Sevens World Series and the seven teams who qualified as core teams from last season’s series are defending series champions New Zealand, Dubai defending champions Australia, as well as England, Canada, USA, Russia and Spain. 

After the qualification tournament in Hong Kong in September, Fiji, China, France and South Africa have won their way through to the line-up, with the remaining place in each round being open to an invited team.

The women will also be vying for qualification for the Olympic Games, with the top four finishers in the 2014/15 series earning an Olympic berth.

 In addition over 228 teams will take part in the Invitation Tournament which is divided into 15 categories, and will attract many top international men and women, as well as under 18s, local Emirati, social and veterans teams.

The action off the pitch will again be a highlight of the event, with spectators encouraged to come in fancy dress and enjoy the huge range of entertainment on offer in the Rugby Village. Special provision will be made to ensure that it is a great family day out, with dedicated seating, child care facilities and plenty of activities and fun for all ages.

“We are very proud of our reputation as a great event for families and for those who are not necessarily die hard rugby supporters – we have invested in creating a truly carnival atmosphere with a designated family entrance, 2000 seats set aside in the Air BP family stand, crèche facilities and entertainment for children throughout the day,” said Gary Chapman, President Group Services and dnata, Emirates Group.

"Interest in the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens just grows and grows, and every year it becomes more popular, not just in Dubai, but with visitors from all over the world.

“It really is a great showcase for Dubai, a fantastic sporting occasion with the world’s top players on show, and it’s always a wonderful atmosphere,” he said. "This year the competition promises to be tougher than ever with qualification for the Olympics on offer. The standard of play will be exceptional” he added.

Tickets for the Dubai tournament will go on sale on 15 October with massive crowds once again expected to attend one of the region’s favourite sporting and social occasions of the year.

All the information about the event and tickets please go to dubairugby7s.com

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ARU bids to host Lions opener to 2017 All Blacks tour

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Money spinner: The Lions won the series against Australia last summer.

The Australian Rugby Union said Thursday it is attempting to lure the British and Irish Lions back Down Under for a money-spinning kick-off to their 2017 tour of New Zealand.

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said the bold bid for a one-off Lions blockbuster would go some way to recouping lost revenue from next year's World Cup season.

The Lions provided a massive cash injection to the domestic game last year when they played nine matches around the country to full grounds, including a 2-1 Test series victory over the Wallabies.

The tourists, combining the best players from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, kicked off their 2013 tour against the Barbarians in Hong Kong and Pulver said he is keen for a similar tour opener in Australia.

"That's one of the conversations we've been having with them (Lions officials)," Pulver told the Australian Associated Press.

"If they want preliminary games outside New Zealand then we would be a wonderful location for them.

"We would take it in a heartbeat."

The Lions were whitewashed 3-0 by the All Blacks on their last tour to New Zealand in 2005 and the four unions are looking closely at ensuring their best preparations for the next tour.

Pulver admitted a Wallabies-Lions showdown was unlikely during the Super Rugby season but other options were being considered. The cash-strapped ARU face extra financial strain next year with likely just two home Test matches scheduled — down from seven — due to the international season revolving around the World Cup, to be held in England in September and October.

The Wallabies may host the All Blacks in Sydney and South Africa or Argentina, in a Rugby Championship encounter, in Brisbane.

There will be no June Test window next year and Super Rugby will run unbroken from mid-February through to a July 4 final, instead of a late season three-week break implemented this year, the ARU said.

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Sport360° view: Salary cap increase may prove utter waste of time

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Bath target: Australian scrum-half Will Genia.

Premiership Rugby’s decision to increase their salary cap for a second season in succession has received a mixed response, but clubs should be aware that engaging in an arms race with France and Japan is no guarantee of success.

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea is one high profile figure who believes the extra £500,000 (Dh3m) and additional marquee signing are needed in order to bridge that gap.

Bath are believed to have already sounded out Australian scrum-half Will Genia, and it may not be long until rugby union has its first £1 million (Dh6m) player. Seeing the Wallaby No9 orchestrating a back division that already includes George Ford, and is awaiting the arrival of Sam Brugess, would undoubtedly get pulses racing.

The club would in turn expect to see an increase in attendances but at a time when record crowds are already streaming into Premiership grounds, is it a step that is really needed?

Aside from the new marquee player rule that will allow a club to sign an additional player outside of the cap, as long as they are new to the league or have been absent for more than 12 months, the figures still lag well behind France.

The basic cap in England will be raised from £5m (Dh30m) to £5.5m for the start of next season, two years after French Top 14 clubs saw their allowance hit €10m (Dh47.6m). In pure economic terms then, English clubs will still have a battle on their hands to compete with their cousins across the channel.

Of course, being able to sign two players outside of that cap will give Premiership clubs a chance to sign the likes of Genia, and even Steffon Armitage.

Yet, that fact makes a mockery of the claim that these changes are intended to keep as many English-qualified players from heading abroad.

It is an issue dear to England head coach Stuart Lancaster’s heart, and was cited as a primary reason for the continued absence of Armitage from his squad. But the real reason England can continue to overlook a player of the Toulon No8’s quality, is the competition for places that currently exists between English players at English clubs.

The key performers in the important positions at most clubs at the present moment are homegrown, giving the national team an abundance of potentially gifted players.

It has also led to a more competitive league, with at least eight teams, if not more, harbouring ambitions of playing in the end-of-season play-offs.

In the first two weeks alone, Wasps have hinted at a resurgence, narrowly losing to Saracens before beating champions Northampton, while Exeter have put 50 points on London Welsh and pushed Leicester remarkably close. In turn, stadiums have been full and at the moment at least, the Premiership does not appear to be a tournament on life support.

It should be wary not to jeopardise that success with a vain chase to catch up with the Joneses in France and Japan.

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