- Top seeds South Africa beat Ireland, Great Britain and Japan to win Pool C
- Olympic champions Fiji earn last-gasp win over Australia to top Pool A
- Argentina edge USA, Kenya and Spain in hard-fought battle for Pool B supremacy
- Great Britain and Australia make perfect starts in the Women’s Sevens Series
- Spain earn 100th World Rugby Sevens Series victory
- Great Britain’s Tom Bowen and Ireland’s Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe score 100th series tries
South Africa’s men lived up to their favourites tag with a perfect start to their bid for glory on the opening day of the Emirates Dubai 7s, while Olympic champions Fiji earned a stunning late win over Australia as the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series returned in style.
The Blitzboks, who are aiming for a fifth Series title this season, showed their class in wins over Ireland, Japan and Great Britain that set up a mouth-watering quarter-final against third seeds Australia.
Not to be outdone, a Fijian side featuring just two players from the squad that won gold at the Tokyo Olympics defeated France and Canada before scoring a match-winning try in the final play of the game to take top spot off Australia.
New Zealand’s men’s and women’s teams, winners of their respective Series titles in 2020, are unable to participate due to Covid-19 travel complications, but there was no shortage of quality on show in Dubai ahead of a huge year for the sport, with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town coming up in 2022.
Argentina’s men went unbeaten to top Pool B and earn a place in a quarter-final lineup that was completed by Australia, USA, Great Britain, Ireland and Kenya.
Great Britain and Australia both won back-to-back matches to get off to a flyer in the women’s event, but both of the five-team pools remain wide open ahead of their completion on Saturday.
DAY ONE REVIEW
MEN’S POOL A
All eyes were on Fiji after their triumph in Tokyo as a much-changed side travelled to Dubai, featuring only two players from the Olympic squad: Josua Vakurunabili and Waisea Nacuqu.
But any unfamiliarity didn’t show, as a Fijian side featuring 11 debutants kicked off with a 24-15 win over fifth seeds France and continued to show buckets of their characteristic flair in a 29-14 victory against Canada.
Australia matched them, winning 35-19 against the Canadian before beating Les Bleus 17-10, setting up a decider for Pool A glory that lived up to the expectations.
Tries from Josh Turner and Ben Dowling completed a comeback for Australia after they went behind early, but Fiji cut the deficit to just two points when Iowane Teba scored his second try, and Iowane Raturaciri cut through a gap in the defence to score with the clock in the red.
Two Paulin Riva tries helped France defeat Canada 24-14 to take third place, but they were denied a quarter-final spot as their points difference was worse than the other two third-placed sides, Kenya and Ireland.
MEN’S POOL B
Argentina came out on top in a thrilling battle for top spot in Pool B. The Olympic bronze medallists edged ahead of USA, Kenya and Spain as every team won at least one match.
Two tries from the speedy Luciano Gonzalez helped Los Pumas on their way to an opening 28-7 win over Spain, and the winger added another two in a 22-17 victory over a Kenyan side that won silver in Vancouver and bronze in Edmonton earlier this year.
Argentina’s final match against USA provided a rollercoaster encounter, as a double from American winger Carlin Isles was cancelled out by a spirited Argentinian comeback, only for a late Steve Tomasin try to earn the Eagles a 21-21 draw.
That was enough to send USA into the quarter-finals in second place, thanks to an earlier 14-7 win over Kenya, but they also suffered a 12-7 defeat to Spain, who earned their 100th HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series win.
Billy Odhiambo scored two tries as Kenya finished third in Pool B with a 26-12 win over Spain, setting up a challenging quarter-final clash with Fiji.
MEN’S POOL C
South Africa laid down an imposing marker to their title rivals with a perfect start to their Emirates Dubai 7s campaign, beating closest rivals Great Britain 31-12 in their final match to comfortably finish top of Pool C with 111 points to their name.
The top seeds weren’t at their best in their opening 28-7 win over the Irish but still scored some superb tries, particularly when a huge tackle from Muller du Plessis in midfield led to a turnover, which Selvin Davids made the most of by bursting through the defence to score.
The South Africans made short work of Japan, promoted this year as HSBC World Rugby Challenger Series champions from 2020, in a 52-12 victory, but required a strong second half performance to see off Great Britain, who drew level at 12-12 after the break before shipping unanswered tries to Impi Visser, Siviwe Soyizwapi - his second of the match - and the Blitzboks’ most-capped player Branco du Preez.
Pool C runners-up Great Britain, who will participate in the opening two rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai before reverting to compete as the national unions of England, Scotland and Wales for the remainder of the 2022 Series, started with a 17-12 win over Japan, but needed a last-gasp Jamie Barden try to beat Vancouver semi-finalists Ireland 26-19 in an engrossing match in which Englishman Tom Bowen scored his 100th series try.
Terry Kennedy scored a hat-trick in Ireland’s 33-0 win over Japan, which proved enough to earn them a quarter-final against Argentina.
WOMEN’S POOL A
Olympic silver medallists France finished the opening day of the Emirates Dubai 7s on top of a fiercely contested Pool A, but a surprise defeat to the USA could cost them first place after Australia’s perfect start.
France and Australia laid down early markers with 45-5 and 31-0 wins over Spain and USA respectively, and the Australians continued their strong start by crushing the Spanish 34-0 to complete their opening day action with six points from a possible six.
Les Bleus got a scare against Brazil, requiring a last-minute Jade Ulutule try to win 26-21, and they were then left rattled by a 24-19 defeat to an American side that finished as runners-up when Dubai last hosted the series in 2020.
A superb individual try from Brazil’s Bianca Silva was a highlight of their spirited performance against France, and she struck again with the final score of a 26-12 victory over Spain, leaving the USA and Brazil on four points but with a game in hand over leaders France ahead of the completion of the Pool A fixtures on Saturday.
WOMEN’S POOL B
Fiji finished day one on top of Pool B, but their 29-17 defeat to Russia in the final game of the day left top spot open to a Great Britain side that started their campaign with back-to-back victories.
Great Britain, making their first appearance at the Women’s World Series as a combined team made up of Scotland, England and Wales players, defeated Russia 12-7 and Ireland 26-15 to demonstrate their title credentials after winning both ‘fast four’ events in Canada.
Megan Jones scored two tries against the Irish, but it was Ireland’s Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe who made history with her 100th Series try.
Olympic bronze medallists Fiji also started strongly, beating Ireland 28-12 and edging past second seeds Canada 28-26, but their day ended in disappointment as Russia earned an impressive 27-19 win to blow the Pool wide open.
DAY TWO PREVIEW
The men’s Cup quarter-finals begin with a clash between Pool B winners Argentina and Ireland, the best third-placed side, at 10:28 local time.
That will be followed up by a mouth-watering battle between tournament favourites South Africa and third seeds Australia at 10:50, with the Blitzboks looking to defend the Dubai title they won when the tournament was last played in 2020.
If the South Africans win their quarter-final, they will equal their best-ever World Series winning streak of 16 matches, set back in 2008-09.
Great Britain take on 2019 Dubai runners-up USA at 11:12, before the last eight clashes conclude with what promises to be a hugely entertaining meeting between Fiji and Kenya at 11:34.
The cup semi-finals are scheduled for 14:18 and 14:40, sandwiched between the semi-finals and playoffs to decide the 11th, 9th, 7th and 5th place finishers.
The bronze final is set for 18:29, before the tournament concludes with the showcase gold final at 19:26.
In the women's event, the remaining Pool fixtures begin at 09:00 when USA will look to go joint-top of Pool A by beating Spain.
Australia’s clash with the in-form Brazilians at 09:22 promises to be an interesting watch, while there are two unmissable clashes between Pool favourites when France face Australia at 12:23 and Great Britain take on Fiji at 13:07.
The two Pool winners will face off in the Cup final at 18:56, after the conclusion of the play-offs and the bronze medal match between the two Pool runners-up at 18:07.
Australia are the only team among the 10 competitors who have previously won the Dubai title, while Canada have finished second at the last two events and USA, Russia and South Africa have all taken silver - the latter not being involved this time.