Rugby World Cup Limited has marked one year to go until Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai by announcing the appointment of Emirates Airline as the Tournament’s Principal Partner.

The Dubai-based airline, a strong supporter of Rugby, both in Dubai and globally, will head the inventory of six official partners for Rugby World Cup Sevens which will be played between March 5 - 7, 2009.

“Rugby World Cup Limited is delighted that Emirates Airline will be the Principal Partner of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009. Emirates has been a committed supporter of Rugby Sevens for many years and has a long-standing association with world-class sporting events. The appointment of a world leader in the airline industry as Principal Partner highlights RWC Sevens enormous attraction and prestige as a major event on the world sporting calendar,” said International Rugby Board Chairman, Bernard Lapasset.

“Following the massive success of Rugby World Cup 2007, the Rugby community now eagerly awaits the start of RWC Sevens. With a year to go until kick-off in the first match on March 5, 2009, operational planning is on track and the IRB is confident that RWC Sevens 2009 will set a new benchmark in terms of attendances and global television audiences.

“We are also delighted to be making history in Dubai with the first Women's Rugby World Cup Sevens. And we are also well aware that we have a wonderful chance to showcase the strong claims for Rugby Sevens to be included in future editions of the Olympic Games,” added Lapasset.

The announcement continues Emirates strong affiliation with the Game. In addition to being appointed Principal Partner of RWC Sevens 2009, Emirates was an Official Sponsor of Rugby World Cup 2007, and currently sponsors the IRB Match Officials, the prestigious IRB Awards, the IRB World Rugby Yearbook and the IRB Sevens World Series Tournaments in Dubai, South Africa, London and Scotland. Emirates also sponsors the England and Samoa Sevens teams and the Emirates Western Force Super 14 team in Australia.

Gary Chapman, President, Group Services and Dnata, Emirates Group, believes the stage is being set in Dubai for a Tournament to remember. He said, “Emirates is delighted to partner and support Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009. Construction work on the new Rugby complex is now in top gear with a target completion date of November, ahead of us hosting our regular IRB Sevens World Series Tournament which will give us an excellent opportunity to fine-tune arrangements for RWC Sevens in March 2009.”

RWC Sevens 2009 will incorporate 24 Men’s and 16 Women’s teams. Nine Men’s teams are already guaranteed their place at RWC Sevens 2009. They are the eight quarter-finalists from 2005 - winners Fiji, New Zealand, England, Australia, France, Scotland, Argentina and South Africa plus the host Union, the Arabian Gulf. A further 15 places will be filled via qualifying competitions covering Africa, North America and the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and Oceania. And one spot has already been filled by Uruguay who emerged victorious from the South American final staged in Punta del Este in January.

All 16 Women’s teams must also earn the right to compete in Dubai via regional qualifying Tournaments this year with Brazil winning the distinction of being the first team to qualify by winning the South American Women's competition.

Chapman added, “Women’s Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the world as indicated by the fact that a total of 82 countries are taking part in qualifying Tournaments in six different regions. We are honoured that Dubai now has this chance to showcase all that is best about the Women’s Game and promote further growth and development.”

Meanwhile, work on the state-of-the-art sports complex in Dubai, where RWC Sevens 2009 will be staged, is progressing well. The venue will be completed by November, ahead of the opening Tournament of the 2008/09 IRB Sevens World Series, the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens.