The much anticipated Six Nations returns this weekend, with all of the teams preparing for a shot at redemption after a dismal Rugby World Cup return from the Northern hemisphere sides.
This year shall mark a new age for many of the teams with considerable changes made to personnel, coupled with potential changes in playing styles in an attempt to mirror the success of the Southern Hemisphere teams during the World Cup.
Last years tournament was far easier to predetermine the positions of each of the teams, and looked to be a platform for teams to build towards a successful World Cup run.
But how wrong and deceiving of a tournament it proved to be. A year on, and there is strong cases for many of the teams this time round.
Here is a look at how each of the nations are shaping up:
Ireland: (Position Last Year – 1st) World Cup: Went out in the quarter-final to Argentina
Ireland finished as champions in last year’s edition, going down to only one defeat against Wales away at the Millennium Stadium.
The retirement of captain Paul O’Connell, and the loss of key and veteran players to injury, such as Tommy Bowe, and Peter O’Mahoney look to only hamper their title defence.
A currently unsettled side, with players struggling for form in this seasons Champions Cup; they begin their defence at home looking to avenge the defeat their suffered at the hands of the Welsh.
England: (2nd) World Cup: Went out in the group stage as the host nation
After an abysmal, and quite shocking, showing at the World Cup in their own back yard, England have made wholesale changes to coaching and playing staff.
Eddie Jones has taken the helm as the first foreign coach in charge of the Roses, looking to bring an attacking style of play seen by his Japanese side during the World Cup and that of his native Australia.
His calm no-nonsense persona will hopefully be projected upon his much-changed England side from his predecessor Stuart Lancaster. He has already shaken it up with the controversial instalment of hothead Dylan Hartley as captain; who has previously served 54 weeks of bans.
England will be looking to get off to the same start as in the Lancaster era with a win over Scotland at Murrayfield.
Wales: (3rd) World Cup: Went out in the quarter-final to South Africa
The Welsh will be looking to bounce back in style from their injury-ravaged World Cup campaign in similar style from the two previous World Cups by going on to win Grand Slams (2008 and 2012).
The return of a host of highly influential players injured before and during the World Cup to the squad for this winter tournament stands Wales in good stead.
The rise and form of Dan Biggar throughout the World Cup and this season should make him a key player if Wales are to repeat history and beat all five other nations.
France: (Position – 4th) World Cup: Went out in the quarter-final to eventual champions New Zealand
The humiliating end to the reign of Philippe Saint-Andre as head coach of France was a summarisation of the fall of the French national team. He oversaw four Six Nation campaigns, finishing 4th on three occasions and ending with the wooden spoon in the other.
French rugby is known for flair, and new coach Guy Noves will look to reignite that flair and stabilise Les Bleus following reports of player revolts during their World Cup campaign.
They begin the tournament in the Stade de France against Italy, the match being the first sporting event to place in the stadium since the harrowing night of terror attacks that took place in Paris.
Italy: (5th) World Cup: Went out in the group stage
Italy, and their talismanic captain Sergio Parisse will be looking to prove their worth in the Six Nations and end Jacques Brunel tenure on a high; who will leave his post after the tournament with reports linking Conor O’Shea with the role.
Since their induction into the tournament in 2000, the Italians have only ever finished as high as 4th twice. With all the teams reeling from disappointing World Cup trails, there is no better time for the Italians to match or even better that result.
Scotland: (6th) World Cup: Went out in the quarter-final to runner ups Australia
Having finished with the wooden spoon and losing all games in last years Six Nations, the Scots went on to have a relatively good World Cup, narrowly and controversially missing out on beating Australia and reaching the semi-finals.
Scotland have developed a key spine of quality players throughout the team, with W P Nel and the Gray brothers setting a great platform in the pack for the likes of the flourishing partnership of the half-backs Greg Laidlaw and Finn Russell.
The Scots will hope to build on this success and beat a revitalised and shuffled England side for the first time since 2008 and reclaim the Calcutta Cup and get the perfect start.
My tip to win this tournament is Wales, with history looking set to repeat itself of Grand Slams wins after World Cups. The return of high profile players from injury such as Jonathan Davies, who missed out on the World Cup, aligned with the great form of Dan Biggar puts them in a strong position.
However, this years event is proving to be one of the most intriguing to date, so expect anything to happen!
Written by Jacob Ellis