RBS Six Nations preview
This season's Six Nations promises to be one of the most exciting yet, with little to choose between the sides.
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC
Last Updated: 01/02/13 9:11am
Defending champions Wales face a fight to retain their crown following a run of seven successive Tests defeats since they won the grand slam. A run of injuries and the absence of head coach Warren Gatland - who is now working with the British and Irish Lions - will not help their cause.
England will fancy their chances of winning a first grand slam in 10 years after significant improvements under Stuart Lancaster. They finished runners-up last year, while they went on to beat the All Blacks in the autumn - and with three home games, they will look to take full advantage.
France, though, are confident that they can put their Six Nations horrors from 2012 behind them. Les Bleus responded to their fourth-placed finish by recording wins over Argentina (twice), Samoa and Australia and Philippe Saint-Andre will want to carry that from into this season's competition.
Ireland have plenty to prove after a controversial defeat to Wales and a heavy loss to England last time out. The absence of key men through injury could hurt them, however that has opened the door to some talented young players.
Scotland are hoping that interim coach Scott Johnson can inspire the side to recreate the same form that saw them beat Australia in the summer. That win was a rare highlight for the Scots in 2012, though, after they finished with the wooden spoon while defeat in the autumn to Tonga saw Andy Robinson step down.
Italy have the potential to be the dark horses this season as they continue to improve under Jacques Brunel. The Azzurri toppled Scotland last year and then asked plenty of questions of both New Zealand and Australia in the autumn. With three home games in the championship they have a chance of causing a few upsets.
The Six Nations title is not the only prize on offer, though, with a number of players looking to impress Lions head coach Gatland ahead of this summer's tour.