The 16 men’s and 12 women’s captains gathered in Dubai on Wednesday to officially launch the competition, which begins for the women’s sides on Thursday and, for the men, the following day.
Off the back of a hugely successful Olympic Games in Rio, which saw rugby sevens gain more than 16 million new fans, the teams are preparing for a new Olympic cycle that will set them on course for Tokyo 2020.
Fiji’s Olympic gold medal winning captain Osea Koliniseau said the Olympic win has made a massive difference: “It has been life-changing. You get asked for a lot more photos and you get invited to all sorts of places to try and inspire children. But life is all about changes, and now we start with the new series and we have to readjust, starting here in Dubai.”
Australia’s captain Sharni Williams, who led her team to gold in Rio, said: “It’s been pretty unreal since we won the gold. We’ve had young girls coming up to us and saying “I want to be just like you.” But winning the mothers over has been the best thing to come out of it. Hearing them saying they will put some headgear on their daughter and let her go and play rugby has been just awesome.”
Players also got to grips with the new HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series mobile App which was launched ahead of the new season.
Covering both the men’s and women’s series, the app will keep new and existing rugby sevens fans up to date with all the action from the 16 tournaments in the 2016-17 season.
Features include round-by-round coverage with up-to-the minute news, reviews and analysis, video highlights, live blogs and live score updates, personalised content and live video streaming in certain territories.
World Rugby also announced that the upcoming series will see Hawk-Eye replay technology used for head injury assessments (HIAs) and judicial decisions during matches at all rounds of the men’s and women’s series.
In a move that will further enhance player welfare, Hawk-Eye, which was used successfully at last year’s Rugby World Cup, will help medics to spot head impacts, assist with the HIA process and to review any suspected head injuries in real time with different angles.
World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Martin Raftery said: “Player welfare is World Rugby’s number-one priority and this is another initiative designed to make the game safer for players. This technology will ensure that medics can further scrutinise any contact in real time to determine the need for a head injury assessment.”