England bid for Dubai hat-trick
England will bid for an unprecedented hat-trick of titles at the Dubai leg of the eight-stage IRB Sevens World Series which gets under way on Friday.
The Ben Ryan-coached English team, boosted by a large expatriate support base, have triumphed in their last two outings on Emirati soil, but face a tricky Pool C that sees them drawn with South Africa, Samoa and Portugal.
"We are desperate to make sure we do everything we possibly can to make it three titles in a row," Ryan said.
"We've got an excellent record in Dubai, better than any other team in the world in the last five years, and now we need to use that to our advantage. We want to retain our trophy and the lads just love playing here."
England underperformed in the opening leg of the series in Gold Coast, Australia, a tournament won by perennial favourites Fiji.
The islanders have been handed a kind draw alongside Kenya, Spain and Scotland in Pool A.
New Zealand, the most successful side on the circuit, were pipped in the Gold Coast final by Fiji, and veteran coach Gordon Tietjens said he believed the competition was pretty open.
"Dubai is a climate we like playing in and a tournament we want to win again," said Tietjens.
"England have won it over the past couple of years, but there are six or seven teams that could win it.
"Dubai is my favourite tournament out of all of them, it's a great tournament to win."
Tietjens added: "The rugby at international level is the highest it can be and sevens rugby has become a lot stronger in the second fields over the past three or four years.
"It has made it more interesting and the number of supporters has grown significantly and I believe that the support of the spectators in Dubai is one of the main reasons behind that."
Organisers are predicting the biggest ever tournament in its 43-year history, with around 100 000 fans expected to converge on 7he Sevens venue to watch not only the 16 IRB men and women's competition but also a record-breaking 175 invitation teams over three days.
With all eyes on rugby sevens as a sport included in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and a Sevens World Cup to be held in Moscow next summer, women rugby players will break new ground in Dubai.
The Dubai Rugby Sevens will host the first round of the inaugural IRB Women's Sevens World Series, in which 12 of the best national sides will compete.
"Our aim in Dubai is to show that we are improving and that Brazil has good rugby," said Brazilian women's captain Julia Albino Sarda.
"We want to get closer to the top teams in the world. We have started a new programme with New Zealand coaches and we have gone back to the basics to improve our game. We are excited about the new challenges that will come."
Sarda added: "Teams such as England, Canada and Australia were the toughest last season, but all the teams that are professional or semi-professional are hard to play against."