Women's Sevens venues to boost Rugby growth
The establishment of the IRB Women's Sevens World Series is one of the most exciting developments in the International Rugby Board's competitions programme for some time.
The emphasis being placed on women's Sevens is increasing dramatically around the world in terms of finance and resources, with the build-up to the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 crucially focusing minds at National Olympic Committees.
In the 2012/13 season the women's Series will comprise four exciting tournaments played in Asia (2), North America and mainland Europe.
"When we were looking at all of our options there were a number of countries - more than the four - interested in hosting an event, but I think these are all good venues, strategically important and we've a good balance," said the IRB's Head of Development and Performance, Mark Egan.
"They all bring something different, but the key principle is that these will all be very professionally run events, organised to a high standard, where the girls can go onto that stage and perform to the best of their ability."
Here Egan gives the IRB view on the venue choices.
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW WITH MARK EGAN >>
Round 1: Dubai, 30 Nov - 1 Dec 2012
"I think launching in Dubai, a very successful tournament and where we had a very successful Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009, we know they have the facilities to hold the men's and women's together, it was purpose built for that.
"We have that comfort that the facilties are there, it's the right stage, the world's media are watching. There will also be significant broadcast coverage of the event, so I think it's a good launch pad for the Series."
Round 2: USA (Houston), 1-2 Feb 2013
"Women's Rugby is the fastest-growing team sport in America and they have very significant ambitions for the Olympics, through both their men's and women's Sevens programmes.
"There's a great opportunity in Houston. It's a new city for rugby, USA Rugby held their Test match against Italy there in June and had a record crowd in the US for a Test match of over 17,000 people. The facility is fantastic, it's a brand new MLS soccer stadium with 22,000 capcity.
"Houston is a sports-mad city and the mayor is actually a former women's rugby player, so she is very enthusiastic about having the event."
Round 3: China (Guangzhou), 30-31 Mar 2013
"Guangzhou successfully hosted the Asian Games in 2010, where we had a capacity crowd of 30,000 people for the final of the Rugby Sevens.
"China are making significant investment in Rugby, particularly in the women's Sevens programmes, and it gives us an entrance with a big IRB event into what is a huge market for any sport, and we see potential for significant growth there."
Round 4: Netherlands (Amsterdam), 17-18 May 2013
"We had a very successful Women's Challenge Cup event in London last season, but the Amsterdam event is centred around the women's tournament. They've had a very successful event there for a number of years, it's about 10,000 capacity, a fantastic facilty for the athletes, and Netherlands are very serious about Sevens.
"They have significant investment from their National Olympic Committee and also the city of Amsterdam is right behind this event as well."