By Gary Anderson

March 4 - The schedule for next season's IRB Sevens World Series has been announced ©AFP/Getty ImagesDates for the 2014-2015 HSBC Sevens World Series, which will have added significance as the top four-ranked nations will qualify from it directly for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, were announced today. 

The series will visit the same nine countries as this season's tour and with places at Rio 2016 on the line - as rugby sevens makes its Olympic debut - the competition is likely to be the fiercest yet.

The new season is due to kick off at Gold Coast in Australia in October this year before the final two stops of 2014 will take in Dubai and Port Elizabeth in South Africa, both in December.

Wellington in New Zealand will welcome the world's top sevens side in February 2015 before later that month Las Vegas will once again host the USA Sevens.

The series moves to the other side of the world to take in Hong Kong in March and Tokyo in April.

The final two rounds are due to take place in Glasgow and London in May 2015.

"With the World Series now confirmed as a key part of Olympic qualifying for Rio 2016, we are delighted to have nine such strong tournaments showcasing these world class athletes and the strength of global sevens competition," said International Rugby Board (IRB) chairman Bernard Lapasset.

"Rugby sevens is growing all the time and its Olympic credentials are helping to forge new markets and interest around the world, in turn broadening the international landscape for the game of rugby.

"Throughout this 2013/14 Series we are once again seeing an avid fan base flocking to support and watch these spectacular events, and mirroring the vibrancy and youthfulness of the rugby players on the pitch.

"We are all already looking forward with great anticipation to next season."

New Zealand and England will be among the sides battling for Olympic qualification next season ©AFP/Getty ImagesNew Zealand and England will be among the sides battling for Olympic qualification next season ©AFP/Getty Images

The four top teams from next season's World Series will join hosts Brazil as one of 12 teams for the rugby sevens competition at Rio 2016.

The seven other sides will be made up of the six winners of IRB regional competitions and one from a world play-off.

The format for the women's competition will follow a similar path, with the top four sides in the Women's Sevens World Series qualifying, along with six regional winners, a world play-off winner and hosts Brazil.

"HSBC has been involved with rugby sevens since 2010 as the first ever sponsor of the International Rugby Board's Sevens World Series," said Giles Morgan, group head of sponsorship and events at HSBC.

"With the added incentive of Olympic qualification, next year's HSBC Sevens World Series is set to be the most exciting yet and we are proud to continue our support, from grassroots through to elite level during this crucial period."

Reigning World Sevens Series champions New Zealand currently lead the standings on this year's tour with the next round due to take place in Tokyo later this month on March 22 and 23.

HSBC Sevens World Series 2014-2015
Round 1 Australia (Gold Coast) October 11-12, 2014
Round 2 Dubai December 5-6, 2014
Round 3 South Africa (Port Elizabeth) December 13-14, 2014
Round 4 New Zealand (Wellington) February 6-7, 2015
Round 5 USA (Las Vegas) February 13-15, 2015
Round 6 Hong Kong March 27-29, 2015
Round 7 Japan (Tokyo) April 4-5, 2015
Round 8 Scotland (Glasgow) May 9-10, 2015
Round 9 England (London) May 16-17, 2015

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