Dubai: The top international stars of the IRB HSBC Sevens World Series will be on show on Friday following an exciting first day of action from the undercards at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens.
More than 160 men's and women's international and Gulf sides, along with social, veteran and junior competitions, got in to full swing at The Sevens Stadium on Al Ain road yesterday amid a carnival atmosphere on the start of the UAE's 40th National Day holidays.
"It's been absolutely brilliant," tournament director Jim Fitzsimons said.
"It's been the biggest crowd we've ever had on a Thursday, certainly at the new site anyway.
"There's been a very nice atmosphere with a lot of teams from overseas and a lot of people mixing together very well. The rugby seemed to be good as well, so it's been a great day. It's a great start ahead of what should be a big two days to come."
The first day's build-up is thought to be nothing compared to the 40,000-strong crowds expected to converge on the main stadium in fancy dress and team colours on Day Two, as Wales take on Scotland to kick-off the serious business building up to tomorrow's climactic finale.
Only the second stage of nine on the 2011 world sevens circuit, which kicked off on Australia's Gold Coast last weekend with victory for Fiji, Dubai will witness 24 14-minute pool matches across four groups of four today, while tomorrow's quarters, semis and final separates the winners in respective Shield, Bowl, Plate and Cup categories.
While last year's series winners New Zealand take on 2010 runners-up South Africa at 7.30pm tonight, the headline game is undoubtedly the UAE's home event debut against Samoa at 10.26am.
Only born from the break-up of the regional Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union (AGRFU) this January, the country's first strides into sevens rugby at this level will be judged internationally on the nation's 40th anniversary, with two history-making Emiratis among the ranks.
The UAE also plays Fiji at 1.46pm and Argentina at 5.08pm, as the squad bids to go one better than the AGRFU's previous best of semi-finals in the plate and quarter-finals in the bowl, both of which were attained in 2010, their last appearance as a recognised outfit.
Elsewhere, last years' Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens winners England face traditional rugby foes France in the last pool game of the day at 7.52pm. That's before live music and entertainment from one of New Zealand's favourite cover bands, The Corporate Voice Experience, entertain fans long into the night.