The first leg of the men’s 2018-19 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series gets underway this week at the Sevens Stadium in the UAE, as 16 countries compete in season-opening Dubai Sevens.
For those who are in the United States, the first match (USA vs Spain) starts Thursday night at midnight ET, with competition happening pretty steadily through Friday and Saturday (full list of fixtures and start times).
While it won’t be broadcast on television anywhere in the US, you can still watch a live stream of the entire tournament on your computer, phone or streaming device via ESPN+, the new digital streaming service from ESPN that broadcasts dozens of international rugby matches.
You can sign up for a free 7-day trial of ESPN+ right here, and you can then watch a live stream of every match on your computer via ESPN.com, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
If you can’t watch live, everything that is streamed on ESPN+ is also available to be watched on-demand afterwards via ESPN.com or the ESPN app.
South Africa, the back-to-back defending series and Dubai champions, will open the 2018-19 season in Pool A alongside Argentina, Samoa and invitational side Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Pool B features 2013 and 2015 Dubai champions Fiji, who are joined by France, Scotland and Kenya. Pool C pits together New Zealand, USA, Spain and Wales. And Pool D has England, Australia, Canada and new core team Japan.
“It’s always an exciting time being in Dubai, about to start a new world series,” New Zealand captain Scott Curry said. “You can see all the teams are pretty keen to get out there and start playing some rugby. It’s definitely an exciting time.”
Adding to the excitement of this year’s world series is the fact that it will also serve as qualification for the Summer Olympics. The top four finishing teams in the series will secure spots in the Tokyo 2020 tournament (Japan automatically qualifies as host), only increasing the importance of getting off to a good start this weekend in Dubai.
“This year is about qualifying for the Olympics, it’s a massive year for all the teams,” Curry said. “You can’t start slow on the world series. To win a world series is all about consistency, so to start here well will lead us off well to hopefully go and win a world series.”
There, of course, will be more opportunities to qualify for Tokyo, but with the added stakes of Olympic qualification this year, and with every team boasting a clean slate to start the season, the Dubai Rugby Sevens should serve as a highly entertaining tournament.