Just over two weeks before the kick-off of the 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.
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, Papua New Guinea and Niue.
In future, the pool draw for each Round of the Sevens World Series will take place 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 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, said the inaugural Gold Coast Sevens would be treated to some fantastic opening day games thanks to the draw.
"This draw provides for some fantastic match-ups on the Friday with New Zealand and Fiji and Australia and South Africa set to go head-to-head before we ever reach 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 is set to 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."
Pool A: New Zealand, Fiji, Kenya, Niue
Pool B: South Africa, Australia, United States, Japan
Pool C: Samoa, Argentina, France, Papua New Guinea
Pool D: England, Wales, Scotland, Tonga
Day One schedule
(Kick-off is local time - GMT plus 10 hours)
Game 1: Samoa v France - 12.35
Game 2: Argentina v Papua New Guinea - 12.57
Game 3: England v Scotland - 13.19
Game 4: Wales v Tonga - 13.41
Game 5: New Zealand v Kenya - 14.03
Game 6: Fiji v Niue - 14.25
Game 7: South Africa v United States - 14.47
Game 8: Australia v Japan - 15.09
Game 9: Samoa v Papua New Guinea - 15.41
Game 10: Argentina v France - 16.03
Game 11: England v Tonga - 16.25
Game 12: Wales v Scotland - 16.47
Game 13: New Zealand v Niue - 17.09
Game 14: Fiji v Kenya - 17.31
Game 15: South Africa v Japan - 17.53
Game 16: Australia v United States - 18.15
Game 17: France v Papua New Guinea - 18.52
Game 18: Scotland v Tonga - 19.14
Game 19: Kenya v Niue - 19.36
Game 20: United States v Japan - 19.58
Game 21: Samoa v Argentina - 20.30
Game 22: England v Wales - 20.52
Game 23: New Zealand v Fiji - 21.14
Game 24: South Africa v Australia - 21.36
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