With a World Cup on English soil to follow, the 2015 Six Nations is likely to provide even more excitement than usual as players set about staking their claims for places.
Meanwhile the victorious nation will receive a huge confidence booster ahead of the big one.
So as the Christmas turkeys prepare for a good basting and the international rugby scene sits in recess, we felt it necessary to get in the mood by picking out three things we cannot wait to see when the tournament kicks off in February.
Who will England start at fly-half?
Owen Farrell’s grip on England’s number 10 shirt began to loosen after disappointing displays from the Saracens star during defeats to New Zealand and South Africa in November.
The calls for Bath’s standout half-back George Ford to be given a start were listened to by Stuart Lancaster and the coaching staff were rewarded with two dazzling displays in wins over Samoa and Australia.
Farrell was dropped to the bench for the Wallabies game and with the likes of Northampton Saints centre Luther Burrell back in top form, the possibility of Andy Farrell’s son losing his place altogether for the tournament is very real.
Unless Farrell’s Sarries form is exceptional during January, Ford is likely to be the 13/8 favourites’ playmaker.
Ireland going all out to land the Grand Slam after a brilliant autumn
The only northern hemisphere side to beat two of the three southern hemisphere giants, defending Six Nations champions Ireland look a fine bet at 15/8 to successfully defend their title.
Joe Schmidt’s team were particularly impressive when beating a wily South African side by 14 points at the Aviva and on the autumn’s evidence, a second Six Nations Grand Slam at 5/1 is certainly within reach.
Whether Wales can bounce back from a disappointing autumn?
Warren Gatland’s side looked a shadow of the all-conquering Grand Slam winners of 2012 during the autumn, though they did at least sign off by grinding out a hard-fought 12-6 win over the Springboks.
The Red Dragons still have plenty of exciting options in the backline, not least in the form of George North, the best finisher in world rugby.
However, the 7/2 shots for the Six Nations crown will need to buck up their ideas following a thumping from New Zealand and defeat to an unusually weak Wallabies outfit.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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