Hosts UAE have been drawn alongside Asian powerhouses Japan, Sri Lanka and China in Pool B of the Asian men’s qualifiers for the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022, while South Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines and Malaysia have fallen in Pool A.
For the women’s qualifiers, the pots have sent Japan, Kazakhstan, Thailand and the Philippines to Pool A, while China, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Malaysia were sent to Pool B.
The draw for the qualifiers took place on Tuesday in Dubai Sports Council, in the presence of Qais Al Dhalai, Chairman of Asia Rugby and the Arab Rugby Federation; Khalid Al Awar, Director of Dubai Sports Council’s Sports Events Department; Trevor Gregory, Member of the Executive Committee of Asia Rugby; Mohamed Sultan Al Zaabi, Secretary General of UAE Rugby Federation; and Apollo Perelini, UAE rugby team coach.
Dubai Sports City will host the qualifying tournament on November 19 and 20, with the pool matches taking place on the first day, and the semi-finals and finals on day two. The top two teams from each pool will play in the semi-finals, and the men’s and women’s finalists will qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022, which is scheduled to take place in Cape Town, South Africa, from September 9-11 with 24 men’s and 16 women’s teams in the fray.
The top eight men’s teams - New Zealand, England, South Africa Fiji, Argentina, USA, France, Scotland - and top four women’s teams - New Zealand, France, Australia and USA - from the RWC Sevens 2018 in San Francisco, USA, have secured automatic qualification for the tournament in 2022. South Africa’s women will join them as the host nation.
Wishing the UAE team all the best for the tournament, Khalid Al Awar said: “We are pleased to host the Asian qualifiers for the Rugby Sevens World Cup for the first time. Dubai Sports Council is keen to provide all means of success for this tournament, as well as all major international tournaments organised in Dubai.
“These qualifiers are special because they are taking place at the same time as Expo 2020 Dubai, which is bringing the world together here in Dubai, under the slogan Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.
“We are proud that the president of the Asian and Arab rugby federations is a young Emirati who has great ambitions to spread and develop the sport of rugby in the Asian continent. We wish him all the best, and we also wish the UAE team all the best for the qualifiers.
“They will be playing at home and I hope they qualify for the World Cup in South Africa next year. In any case, this experience of playing against the strongest teams from Asia will be invaluable for them going forward.”
A former dual-code international rugby union and rugby league player from New Zealand, UAE coach Perelini was excited to see his team being drawn in the same pool as Japan, a seven-time Asia Rugby Seven Series winners.
“It is a very exciting draw,” Perelini said. “I am very excited because I was always hoping to be in the same pool as Japan. I think it is a great challenge for us as a country and as a team to be in the same group as one of the best.
“We played them in 2019 in our pool games in Korea. We actually went into the second half in the lead, but they were stronger. They are a fully professional side; we are a very amateur side, made up of players who have full-time jobs. But we have worked hard over these last three months. We have just recently come back from a training camp in Kazakhstan, where we went to get some cold weather training.
“The team is excited, I am excited and I think the federation itself is very excited about the prospect of a potential World Cup berth.”