Well I don’t know about you but I am feeling more excitement about this Six Nations campaign than I have for a while! It feels like a clean slate for England – a new squad with no baggage and a fresh young side bursting with potential.
There will be lots of people basing their expectations on what happened at the World Cup, but I don’t think any team’s performances in New Zealand will have a bearing on this Six Nations. It is all a bit unknown, what with new coaches at England, Italy and France, and the start of the next four year cycle towards 2016.
Wales have been hit with some injuries which disrupt them slightly, but expectations from their fans will remain huge as they have so many talented youngsters alongside a familiar and experienced coaching team. Ireland did not play well at the World Cup, however when I watched them play Australia in Dunedin, it was the best game in the whole competition, and with their players performing so well in the Heineken cup they will have great confidence. France, with my old mate from Phillipe St Andre at the helm, have a fairly settled side and appear a threat, however Italy have to hope they can find another gear with a new coach.
As for my beloved England, the team will have to put their catalogue of errors both on and off the field behind them, and I genuinely don’t know what we will see from this new squad. They will be a little raw and inexperienced with new captain Chris Robshaw, who has never played at Murrayfield. The first game up will be crucial for the lads to get a decent start, and as long as they play with passion and commitment English rugby will receive a massive boost.
We all know that when Scotland are at Murrayfield they take on a whole new aura, and I can remember clearly the intimidating atmosphere they create up there. What the new guys need to do is feed off the atmosphere and direct their energy into silencing the crowd and those bagpipes! New coach Stuart Lancaster is a good guy and knows most of his players from the U21’s and Saxons, so he should be able to get the best out of them. As long as they learn and develop whatever the result, we will have taken a step forward. It is a real privilege to play for your country and test yourself against the best and I believe Stuart has selected a group of players who will give their all. For all the teams, even as a proud Englishman, I want to see us showing the rest of the World how good northern hemisphere rugby can be. For all you rugby fans out there this weekend is going to be unmissable.