A little over two weeks before the kick-off of the HSBC Sevens World Series 2011/12, the IRB has announced the pool draw for the opening Round at a brand new venue on Australia's Gold Coast.
The first ever World Series pool draw was carried out in London, the venue for the climax of the Series on 13 May 2012.
HSBC Head of Rugby Sponsorship UK, Andrea de Vincentiis, assisted by IRB Tournament Director Beth Coalter, conducted the draw in the presence of adjudicator Ed Morrison, RFU Head of Elite Referee Development.
As defending World Series champions, New Zealand were automatically seeded first and placed top of Pool A for the opening round on the Gold Coast, while last season's runners-up South Africa were seeded second and placed top of Pool B.
From the remaining teams in the top band of eight, Samoa and England were drawn into Pools C and D respectively. Fiji, hosts Australia, Argentina and Wales were then drawn into Pools A, B, C and D respectively, meaning that New Zealand will face Fiji and Australia will take on South Africa in two of the most eye-catching matches on the first day of the new season.
The second band of teams drawn comprised the nations ranked from ninth to twelfth last season - Kenya, France, Scotland and USA - while the third band of teams was made up of the four regional qualifiers for the event - Japan, Tonga, PNG and Niue.
In future, the pool draw for each Round of the HSBC Sevens World Series will take place live on television before the Cup final at the preceding event.
After the inaugural draw Bernard Lapasset, IRB Chairman, commented: "This new pool draw format makes for even more excitement on the HSBC Sevens World Series and this first one has thrown up some intriguing pool matches at the Gold Coast Sevens, which heralds the start of the 13th Series.
"The year ahead is another hugely exciting one for Rugby Sevens. By the time this Series reaches its climax in London, we will enter the four-year cycle leading to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a period which present a massive opportunity for the entire global Rugby family."
ARU Managing Director and CEO, John O’Neill AO, said fans at the inaugural Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch tournament would be treated to some fantastic opening day games thanks to the draw: “This draw provides for some great match-ups on the Friday with New Zealand and Fiji and Australia and South Africa set to go head-to-head before we even reach the finals,” O’Neill said.
“It is hard to find a game that will be easy for any team, in any Pool, which means the inaugural Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch tournament will kick off with a bang. In previous years people would sometimes have to wait until the final day to see the likes of Australia and South Africa or New Zealand and Fiji face off against one another, but now fans will get the chance to witness some great games from the very start of the tournament.”
Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship, HSBC Holdings commented: "There is already considerable excitement around the world in anticipation of the expanded 2011/12 HSBC Sevens World Series, and knowing the pool line-ups for the Gold Coast increases the interest that is building. The addition of a new tournament this year in Japan adds to the international dimension of the Series, taking the teams competing to nine different countries around the world and allowing more fans the opportunity to watch the fast paced rugby sevens action. We wish all the teams good luck and success over the coming season.”
Round 1, HSBC Sevens World Series 2011/12 - Gold Coast, Australia