MOSCOW, Russia - A festival of sport, music and fun will hit Moscow from June 28-30 as Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 comes to town. And as the 24 men's teams and 16 women's teams prepare to battle it out over those three days, the draw has taken place in the Russian capital, setting the scene for some mouth-watering encounters in the pool stages of the tournament and beyond.
The draw was made on Thursday at Petroff Palace in the heart of the city in the presence of some of Russia's most celebrated cosmonauts, Olympians and government representatives as well as Rugby's top officials.
As expected, the pool allocation draw has thrown up some very exciting match-ups. Wales will face a tough battle to retain their men's crown, as they take on southern hemisphere rivals Fiji and Tonga along with Uruguay in Pool E.
Neighbours USA and Canada will clash in Pool D, alongside New Zealand and Georgia. Hosts Russia will face a tough challenge in Pool B as they take on South Africa, Scotland and Japan while Pool C will witness another clash of neighbours as African countries Kenya and Zimbabwe battle it out along with Samoa and the Philippines, who became the first national team from their country to qualify for a World Cup.
Elsewhere in the men's draw, Pool F has pitted England alongside Argentina, Portugal and Hong Kong. Pool A, D and F have three core teams from the HSBC Sevens World Series, while the other three have only two.
The women's draw will see defending champions Australia facing South Africa, China and Ireland. Brazil, who were the last team to qualify for the tournament, have been drawn alongside USA, Spain and Fiji, while hosts Russia will face England, France and Japan.
Pool A will not be easy for any team, with Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands and Tunisia set to battle it out to reach the quarter-finals.
With just four months to go, everything is coming together with local organisers and teams alike busy preparing for what will be a fiesta of speed, power, grace and skill.
Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset, who was in Moscow for the draw, said: "We know from past experience that this is going to be an exciting tournament, full of sporting endeavour, passion, camaraderie and skill. As we continue to look forward to Rugby Sevens' Olympic Games debut at Rio 2016, I am confident that Moscow 2013 will be a resounding success."
"Planning and preparation is on track. Russia has a proud history of staging exceptional major sporting and cultural events and the RUR and the Russian Government will deliver a world-class festival on and off the pitch. It will be a Rugby World Cup Sevens festival like no other."
"The IRB is determined to take Rugby to new frontiers. We want to explore new lands and spread the word of Rugby and Russia is at the very centre of that mission."This tournament will be accessible, it will be affordable and, most of all, it will be fun. I urge sports fans from Moscow and beyond to come and sample the unique party atmosphere that is associated with Rugby Sevens," said Lapasset.
The decision to host the tournament in the Russian capital was part of the International Rugby Board's development vision and commitment to grow the Game beyond its traditional heartlands. The fact it will be held at the iconic Luzhniki Stadium is a further boost for the tournament as such high-profile events as the Olympic Games and UEFA Champions League final have already been staged there.
The three-day event will be an incredible experience for sports fans from Russia and around the world as a top-level international Rugby tournament is staged in Moscow for the very first time.
The men's event is split into six pools of four teams with the top team from each pool, together with the two best runners-up progressing to Cup quarter-finals. The defending champions are Wales.
The six pools for the men's event are as follows:
Pool A: Australia, France, Spain, Tunisia
Pool B: South Africa, Scotland, Russia, Japan
Pool C: Samoa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Philippines
Pool D: New Zealand, USA, Canada, Georgia
Pool E: Fiji, Wales, Tonga, Uruguay
Pool F: England, Argentina, Portugal, Hong Kong
The women's event is split into four pools of four teams with the top two teams from each pool progressing to Cup quarter-finals. The defending champions are Australia.
The four bands of four for the women's event are as follows:
Pool A: Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands, Tunisia
Pool B: Australia, South Africa, China, Ireland
Pool C: USA, Spain, Brazil, Fiji
Pool D: England, Russia, France, Japan