Canadian men face tough opposition in Dubai for kickoff of World Rugby sevens season

The Canadian men will find themselves in tough company when they kick off World Rugby's sevens season next month in Dubai.

Canada will play New Zealand, South Africa and Samoa in Pool A of the Dec. 2-3 Emirates Dubai 7s, the opening stop of the rebranded HSBC SVNS, formerly known as the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

The All Blacks took last season's World Series overall title, winning five of the 11 stops and finishing second or third in three others. South Africa won Dubai and was runner-up in Sydney last season, finishing seventh overall, while Samoa finished first in Cape Town and placed sixth overall.

In contrast, Canada finished 14th overall last season and had to win a relegation playoff in London in May to retain its core status on the circuit.

The Canadian women, who finished ninth overall last season, will play the U.S., France and Spain in Pool C in Dubai.

The Americans finished third last season, finishing on the podium in six of the seven women's events including a third-place finish in Dubai. France placed fourth overall and Spain 10th.

The slimmed-down sevens circuit features seven regular-season events, each featuring men's and women's competition, plus a grand final with promotion and relegation at stake.

Vancouver is the fourth stop of the season, scheduled for Feb. 23-25 after Dubai, Cape Town and Perth, Australia. The teams then go to Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Singapore before wrapping up in Madrid May 31 to June 2.

The men's field has been cut to 12 core teams from 16 to match the women's setup as well as the Olympic competition.

Canada retained its place in dramatic fashion, defeating Kenya 12-7 in the relegation playoff final thanks to a last-minute try by Alex Russell at Twickenham.

The men's Pool B in Dubai features Argentina, Spain, Australia and Ireland while Pool C consists of two-time Olympic champion Fiji, France, the U.S. and Britain.

On the women’s side, the New Zealand Black Ferns headline Pool A alongside Fiji, Britain and South Africa.

New Zealand won six of seven tournaments last season to claim its seventh series title. South Africa, meanwhile, won the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series to earn promotion to the sevens top tier.

Defending Dubai champion Australia joins Brazil, Ireland and Japan in Pool B.

Under the new format, the top eight teams at the conclusion of the seventh round in Singapore will earn the right to compete in a "winner takes all" grand final in Madrid to crown the 2024 champions.

Madrid will also host a relegation playoff with the teams ranked ninth to 12th joining the top four sides from the Challenger Series, with the top four finishers securing their place on the 2025 circuit.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2023.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press