We take a closer look at the 12 teams vying for glory at the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2018 in Dubai this week. 

Australia

Coach: Tim Walsh

2016-17 Series placing: Runners-up
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Chloe Dalton, 166 points / Emilee Cherry, 29 tries
Series titles: One (2015-16)

Team news: Page McGregor is set to make her series debut after a whirlwind few months that have seen her win Commonwealth Youth Games gold in July and impress during the Aon University Sevens Series. Georgina Friedrichs missed the latter but returns alongside Emma Tonegato, who last featured on the series in Las Vegas in March. Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry will again co-captain Australia having returned from 15s duty at Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 in August.

Squad: Shannon Parry (co-captain), Sharni Williams (co-captain), Georgina Friedrichs, Dom du Toit, Emma Tonegato, Evania Pelite, Charlotte Caslick, Mahalia Murphy, Emma Sykes, Page McGregor, Emilee Cherry, Cassie Staples

READ DOM DU TOIT'S EXCLUSIVE COLUMN >>

Did you know... ? Emilee Cherry has scored the most points and tries across the five previous Dubai stops on the women's series with 130 points and 24 tries

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Canada

Coach: John Tait

2016-17 Series placing: Third
2016-17 Titles: One (Sydney)
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Ghislaine Landry, 269 points / 27 tries

Team news: Canada welcome back talisman Jen Kish for the first time since she suffered a broken pelvis in the Langford round in May and her first Dubai event since 2016. Her experience will be a welcome addition to a squad that is missing some players through injury and features two 18-year-olds set to make their world series debuts in Tausani Levale and Emma Chown.

Squad: Brittany Benn, Emma Chown, Caroline Crossley, Hannah Darling, Julia Greenshields, Jen Kish, Tausani Levale, Ghislaine Landry (captain), Megan Lukan, Kayla Moleschi, Breanne Nicholas, Natasha Watcham-Roy

Did you know...? Tausani Levale helped Canada claim a silver medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas in July 

England

Coach: James Bailey

2016-17 Series placing: Eighth
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Alice Richardson, 73 points / Joanne Watmore, 11 tries

Team news: With England's focus back on the sevens games following Women's Rugby World Cup 2017, a number of players have made the switch back to the format, including Team GB captain Emily Scarratt and fellow WRWC 2017 finalists Amy Wilson-Hardy, Alex Mathews, Emily Scott, Megan Jones and World Rugby Women's Player of the Year 2017 nominee Lydia Thompson.

Squad: Claire Allan (captain), Alex Matthews, Lydia Thompson, Katie Mason, Emily Scarratt, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher, Emily Scott, Chantelle Miell, Megan Jones, Holly Aitchison, Amy Wilson-Hardy

Did you know...? England had never failed to reach the Cup quarter-finals in series history until last season when it happened three times, in Sydney, Las Vegas and Clermont-Ferrand. That all contributed to England's lowest ever finish of eighth.

Fiji

Coach: Iliesa Tanivula

2016-17 Series placing: Fourth 
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Lavenia Tinai, 149 points / Tima Ravisa, 20 tries

Team news: Tanivula has been focusing on increasing the depth of his Fijiana player pool and one newcomer named is Vasiti Kuma Solikoviti, while Lavenia Cavuru only has one tournament to her name after making her debut in Clermont-Ferrand. These newcomers will be supported by the core of experience from the likes of Ana Maria Roqica, Lavenia Tinai, Rusila Nagasau and Tima Ravisa as Fijian look to build on their highest ever finish of fourth in 2016-17.

Squad: Lavenia Cavuru, Merewai Cumu, Rusila Nagasau, Ana Maria Naimasi, Litia Naiqato, Timaima Ravisa, Viniana Riwai, Ana Maria Roqica (captain), Pricilla Sauvavi Siata, Vasiti Kuma Solikoviti, Lavenia Tinai, Luisa Basei Tisolo

Did you know...? Fiji and Ireland are no strangers to each other as this is the seventh time in the last eight series tournaments the two sides have faced each other in the pool stages

France

Coach: David Courteix

2016-17 Series placing: Seventh
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Pauline Biscarat, 84 points / Montserrat Amedee, 11 tries

Team news: Coralie Bertrand and Anne-Cécile Ciofani have caught the eye of French coaches in regional events and are given the chance to showcase their potential on the world stage surrounded by a core of seasoned sevens players in the likes of Fanny Horta, Camille Grassineau, Shannon Izar and Marjorie Mayans. A number of the squad are back in sevens mode after helping Les Bleues to third place at Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland.

Squad: Montserrat Amedee, Coralie Bertrand, Pauline Biscarat, Anna-Cécile Ciofani, Camille Grassineau, Fanny Horta (captain), Shannon Izar, Jade le Pesq, Marjorie Mayans, Carla Niesen, Seraphine Okemba, Chloe Pelle

Did you know...? Camille Grassineau scored the first ever rugby sevens try in the Olympic Games at Rio 2016

Ireland

Coach: Anthony Eddy

2016-17 Series placing: Ninth
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe, 105 points / 21 tries

Team news: Eve Higgins and Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird are in line for the series debuts in a squad that features four members of Ireland's squad that finished eighth in Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 on home soil in August in Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Louise Galvin and Hannah Tyrrell. Meanwhile Aoife Doyle returns for the first time since Dubai last year after injury and the presence of Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe means defences won't have an easy time in the desert.

Squad: Ashleigh Baxter, Claire Boles, Aoife Doyle, Katie Fitzhenry, Stacey Flood, Louise Galvin, Eve Higgins, Lucy Mulhall (captain), Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Audrey O'Flynn, Hannah Tyrrell

Did you know...? Claire Boles and Stacey Flood spent the off-season in Australia, playing in the inaugural Aon University Sevens Series with Bond University

Japan

Coach: Hitoshi Inada

2016-17 Series placing: 13th (only played in Kitakyushu and Clermont-Ferrand)
2016-17 Top point / try scorers: Chisato Yoko, Ano Kuwai, Mifuyu Koide, 10 points / two tries

Team news: Playing two of the last three rounds on the 2016-17 series gave Japan coach Hitoshi Inada and his players a taste of what lies ahead as they return to the series as a core team. Many of the players named by Inada played in either Kitakyushu and Clermont-Ferrand, while the likes of Mayu Shumizu, Honoka Tsutsumi, Sayaka Suzuki and Iroha Nagata were part of Japan's first Women's Rugby World Cup campaign for 15 years back in August.

Squad: Yume Hirano, Tomomi Kozasa, Ano Kuwai, Iroha Nagata, Chiharu Nakamura (captain), Yume Okuroda, Mayu Shimizu, Sayaka Suzuki, Emii Tanaka, Yukari Tateyama, Honoka Tsutsumi, Chisato Yoko

Did you know...? Japan return to the series as a core team after beating South Africa 22-10 in the final of the qualifier in Hong Kong in April

New Zealand

http://www.worldrugby.org/photos/297573

Coach: Allan Bunting

2016-17 Series placing: Champions 
2016-17 titles: Five (Dubai, Las Vegas, Kitakyushu, Langford, Clermont-Ferrand)
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Michaela Blyde, 200 points / 40 tries
Series titles: Four (2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2016-17) 

Team news: Kayla McAlister, the fifth highest try-scorer in women's series history, is back with the Black Ferns Sevens again after missing the 2016-17 series to welcome daughter Stella into the world. Put McAlister into a squad that already boasts World Rugby Women's Players of the Year in sevens (Michaela Blyde) and 15s (Portia Woodman) among others and they'll be a hard team to top again. There are four of the Black Ferns who won Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 in the Dubai squad and the 'Sisters' will be out to end a remarkable year for New Zealand women's rugby on a high.

Squad: Ruby Tui, Alena Saili, Stacey Waaka, Niall Williams, Sarah Goss (captain), Michaela Blyde, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Gayle Broughton, Kat Whata-Simpkins, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Portia Woodman, Kayla McAlister

Did you know...? Michaela Blyde (pictured) is one of three World Rugby Women's Sevens Players of the Year named in the Black Ferns Sevens squad with Kayla McAlister (2013) and Portia Woodman (2015) 

Russia

Coach: Andrey Kuzin

2016-17 Series placing: Fifth
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Elena Zdrokova, 140 points / 28 tries

Team news: Russia's squad is packed with sevens experience with the likes of try-scoring machine Elena Zdrokova, Alena Mikhaltsova and Baizat Khamidova, but it will be a first visit to Dubai for both Snezhanna Kulkova and Daria Noritsina with the former only having made her debut in Kitakyushu back in April.

Squad: Daria Bobkova, Arina Bystrova, Anna Gavrilyuk, Baizat Khamidova, Marina Kukina, Snezhanna Kulkova, Daria Lushina, Alena Mikhaltsova (captain), Daria Noritsina, Maria Perestiak, Kristina Seredina, Elena Zdrokova

Did you know...? Russia have reached the semi-finals in Dubai for the last two years, finishing as runners-up in 2015 and bronze medallists in 2016

South Africa 

Coach: Renfred Dazel

2016-17 Series placing: 12th (only played in Dubai)
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Nadine Roos, 20 points / four tries 

Team news: Unathi Mali will make her series debut after impressing on the SA Select Women's 15s side tour to England in October. It will also be a first series event for Chane Stadler and Megan Comley, although both played for the Springbok Women's Sevens in the series qualifier earlier this year. In addition to Mali, there are two other changes from the squad which won the Rugby Africa Sevens crown in September to qualify for RWC Sevens 2018 and this tournament with Marithy Pienaar, who is available again after hip surgery, and Phumezu Gadu coming in.

Squad: Megan Comley, Phumeza Gadu, Veroeshka Grain (captain), Jacqueline Kriel, Unathi Mali, Zintle Mpupha, Marithy Pienaar, Nadine Roos, Mathrin Simmers, Chane Stadler, Christelene Steinhoebel, Eloise Webb

Did you know...? South Africa reached the final of the inaugural women's series round in Dubai in 2012, losing to New Zealand

Spain

Coach: Pedro de Matías

2016-17 Series placing: 10th
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Patricia García, 106 points / 10 tries

Team news: A welcome sight for Spanish fans after a difficult season in 2016-17 will be the return of Elisabet Martinez, who has been sidelined for a year since captaining Las Leonas at Rio 2016. She takes her place alongside nine members of Spain's squad from Women's Rugby World Cup 2017, coming a mix of veterans with exciting young players like Anne Fernández de Corres.

Squad: Uri Barrutieta, Marina Bravo, María Casado, Iera Echebarría, Amaia Erbina, Anne Fernández de Corres, Patricia García, Sabina Hurtado, María Losada, Elisabet Martínez, Bárbara Pla, María Ribera

READ PATRICIA GARCIA'S EXCLUSIVE COLUMN >>

Did you know...? Spain failed to reach a Cup quarter-final last season, a key factor in their season-long battle with Brazil to avoid losing their core team status on the series

USA

Coach: Richie Walker 

2016-17 Series placing: Sixth
2016-17 Top point / try scorer: Naya Tapper, 160 points / 32 tries

Team news: Tia Blythe and Saskia Morgan are set to make their series debuts in Dubai alongside some experienced names like try-scoring machine Naya Tapper and 2016-17 Dream Team member Alev Kelter. Half of the squad have returned to sevens again after helping the USA Women's Eagles to a first Women's Rugby World Cup semi-final for 19 years back in August. 

Squad: Jordan Gray, Ryan Carlyle, Sara Parsons, Nicole Heavirland (captain), Tia Blythe, Alev Kelter, Naya Tapper, Abby Gustaitis, Kelsi Stockert, Sarah Buonopane, Saskia Morgan, Megan Foster

Did you know...? Alev Kelter has not missed a series event since making her debut in Guangzhou in April 2014, that's a run of 19 consecutive tournaments coming into Dubai

The action gets underway on Thursday at 12:00 local time (08:00 GMT) when Ireland take on Fiji. Follow all the action unfold on worldrugby.org/sevens-series