Rugby sevens is set for an exciting start to a game-changing season as the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series sprints into action next week (December 3-5), with Olympic legend Michael Johnson.

The four-time gold medallist will star as a special guest of HSBC at the opening tournament in Dubai, to celebrate the start of a series that will culminate in rugby sevens being played at the Olympics for the first time at Rio 2016.

During his Dubai visit Johnson will meet with both men’s and women’s teams to pass on his experience and advice ahead of the landmark season. With rugby continuing to grow as a global force following a hugely successful Rugby World Cup 2015, the series is being billed as a golden opportunity for the development of the sport.

Ahead of the trip, Johnson said: “I’m looking forward to heading to Dubai, meeting the sport’s fans and, of course, the players. From all my years in athletics, I know just what it means to compete for your country at the highest level, particularly in an Olympic Games. The start of this season is a huge moment for them and it’s a huge moment for the sport.

“Dubai, as the starting block for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, is sure to be a supercharged tournament that will set the tone for ten ground breaking months of rugby, so I can’t wait to get involved.”

This year already represents a major turning point for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Firstly, the series has grown to 10 locations worldwide; joining the iconic and ever popular events in Hong Kong and Dubai and well-established venues in London, Wellington and Las Vegas are the new host cities of Cape Town, Sydney, Vancouver, Singapore and Paris. HSBC is also the first-ever title sponsor of the Women’s World Series, taking place in conjunction with the men’s series.

"HSBC has been a committed supporter of rugby around the world, but this feels like a pivotal moment for the game. The opportunity over the next 10 months is huge," said Giles Morgan, Head of Sponsorship and Events at HSBC.

DUBAI SEVENS MEN'S AND WOMEN'S DRAWS >>

"World Rugby, unions and sponsors are committed to converting the opportunity. The gold medal for rugby will be to use Rio 2016 as a catalyst to drive even greater growth, participation and engagement in the game."‎

The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, the first leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, takes place from 3-5 December with over 100,000 sports fans expected to walk through the gates at The Sevens Stadium across the three days of world-class competition.