MARCH 3 - THE Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009, which start in Dubai on Thursday, has been boosted by the announcement of further television broadcast deals that will increase the global coverage of the showpiece event as it seeks to get into the 2016 Olympics.


ESPN Star and Eurosport Asia have signed up to screen the event which will break new ground with the inclusion for the first time of a 16-team women’s tournament running alongside the 24-team men’s competition.


The announcement boosts the record number of broadcasters covering the tournament to 27, ensuring that Rugby fans in nearly 200 countries will be treated to over 400 hours of live, delayed and highlights coverage.


Bernard Lapasset, the chairman of the International Rugby Board, said: “Rugby Sevens is a major hit with television broadcasters the world over. Its winning formula of exciting, explosive action, world-class men’s and women’s players and plenty of tries and has proven highly successful in reaching out to new audiences.


“We are delighted to welcome ESPN Star and Eurosport Asia on board as Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 broadcasters.


"Asia is a major market for Rugby growth and development, underlined by the participation of teams from China, Thailand, the Arabian Gulf, Hong Kong and Japan at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009.


“Today’s announcement is a positive step for the Game and clearly underlines the strong global appetite for Rugby Sevens at a time when the Game is reaching out for Olympic Games inclusion."


The previous television broadcast record was set at the 2005 tournament in Hong Kong where a truly memorable tournament was broadcast to 300 million homes worldwide, in 125 countries through 20 international broadcasters.