Dubai Sevens Preview: Season begins in the desert as Rugby Sevens looks to push on following Olympic success

World Rugby Sevens returns this weekend in Dubai, with world champions Fiji hoping to defend their crown

Dubai Sevens Preview: Season begins in the desert as Rugby Sevens looks to push on following Olympic success
Fiji will be hoping to defend their series crown, starting in Dubai (image via: Gallo Images/Getty)

Following Rugby Sevens gigantic success at the Rio Olympics, the sport reached new audiences who fell in love with the fast paced, free-flowing action. 

Research done by World Rugby showed that there were more than 16 million new Sevens fans gained globally during the Olympics, while there was upwards of 50 million people following the games on social media. 

This growth is all well and good when taking place during the biggest multi-sport event on the planet, but now the Sevens series returns to it's bread and butter without all of the Olympic razzmatazz in the luxurious surroundings of Dubai

Fiji and South Africa among most experienced squads heading to Dubai

The first of ten leg's in the Sevens series this season takes place in the UAE with plenty of new names announced in the 12-man squads. 

14 of the 16 nations competing in the Series opener have included debutants in thier lineups, with only England and South Africa bringing fully-capped Sevens squads with them. 

The Blitzbokke have been installed as early favourites for the overall crown, with the likes of Kwagga Smith, Rosko Specman and the lightning quick Seabelo Senatla all among the best Sevens players on the planet, while the English have GB Olympic heroes Dan Bibby and Tom Mitchell ready to lead their charge once more. 

Reigning champions Fiji include 178 caps of World Rugby Sevens experience, with the now-record breaking captain Osea Kolinisau and World Sevens Player of the Year in 2016 Jasa Veremalua at the forefront of their plans under new head coach Gareth Baber who has the unenviable task of taking over from another Olympic hero, Ben Ryan

Kiwi Forbes set for record-breaking appearance, while Kenyans leave out all-time try scoring leader

New Zealand's DJ Forbes will break a Sevens Series record when he takes part in his 80th tournament this weekend. The 33-year-old has played 391 games for the Kiwi's over 11 years and has been an excellent servant to the sport. 

Meanwhile, after breaking the all-time Sevens record for tries last year in London, Kenya's Collins Injera won't be taking part in Dubai after he was left out of their 12-man squad due to disciplinary issues following a strike over bonuses.

Ugandans to make their bow against Africans neighbours 

As part of the sport's continued growth, Uganda will make their World Rugby Sevens Series debut this weekend, taking the number of African sides competing in Dubai to three.

As luck would have it, the Ugandans first fixture will be against South Africa in their Pool B encounter on Friday, where they will also face-off against Scotland and the USA

Pool A sees last season's champions Fiji drawn against Canada, Argentina and Wales, while Australia, Kenya, France and Japan have been drawn together in Pool D. 

Meanwhile, England will battle against New Zealand, Samoa and Russia in Pool C, with the top two from each group heading to the knockout stages on Saturday.