New England head coach Steve Borthwick will have more than his Christmas dinner to stew on in the next week, with his first game in charge fast approaching.
Scotland are in town for the opening day of the 2023 Championship and Borthwick will be eager to get his reign off to a winning start.
Having captained England for two Six Nations campaigns, he will know exactly what is required to launch a title tilt.
What is more, from his time as England forwards coach, and as head coach of Leicester Tigers, Borthwick will have a far greater knowledge of the players at his disposal than most incoming international coaches.
Here, we take a look at five players who might just be feeling a little merrier following his appointment.
Could it be time for a George Ford and Steve Borthwick reunion?
The 29-year-old has not played any rugby since leaving the field after 23 minutes of last year’s Gallagher Premiership final with a ruptured Achilles, but he did play a starring role in Leicester Tigers journey back to the top, for which he was nominated Player of the Season.
With his tactical nous and eloquent style, Ford was the perfect orchestrator for Borthwick and his notorious attention to detail.
It is perhaps not surprising that Tigers took some time to adapt to Ford’s absence this term, as the reigning champions lost three of their opening five fixtures.
His return from injury is still a little way off but given England’s attacking style and personnel requires some thought, the 81-cap maestro could soon be back in the fold.
Ford was pipped to the Gallagher Premiership Player of the Season crown by Saracens flanker Ben Earl, who has excelled during his prolonged absence from the England side.
Earl won the last of his 13 England caps during the 2021 Championship, having been overlooked by former head coach Eddie Jones ever since.
Tommy Reffell went from strength to strength under Borthwick’s leadership at Tigers and Earl is in a similar mould to the Welsh flanker – a devastating ball-carrier and menace at the breakdown.
England are not short of back row options, with Tom Curry an ever-present for the last few years, while Jack Willis and Sam’s Underhill and Simmonds have all enjoyed a run under Jones.
But Earl has the ability to change a game on his own, not least in the try-scoring department, where he boasts 19 tries since the start of last season, and with England a little try-shy of late, he could be a welcome addition.
Earl’s Saracens teammate Jamie George is another player Borthwick knows well.
The hooker came through the ranks at Saracens when Borthwick was in the twilight of his playing career, with both players in the squad when Saracens lifted their first Gallagher Premiership title, in 2011.
Borthwick then worked extensively with George as Eddie Jones’ forwards coach and line-out guru.
Those first couple of years under Jones and Borthwick saw George produce arguably the best rugby of his career, with the hooker starting all three of the British and Irish Lions tests against New Zealand.
Should Borthwick look to really shake things up, George could even be a left-field shout for the captaincy.
Arguably England’s best performance of the Jones era came in the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.
England set the tempo and ran riot, suffocating the All Blacks into submission.
One of England’s star performers throughout the tournament, including the memorable win in Yokohama, was Anthony Watson.
The wing was a constant threat on the right of England’s attack and was a colossus in defence.
He missed the start of this season due to injury, which perhaps ruined his chances of selection for the Autumn Nations Series, but he was a regular under Borthwick prior to his departure and, at 28, will feel he still has a lot to offer at international level.
For all the debate around England’s scrum-half options, it’s clear that Ben Youngs has been Borthwick’s pick at domestic level.
In the five rounds of Premiership action that he and Jack van Poortvliet have been available for, Youngs has started all five, with the young buck used as a finisher from around the 50-minute mark.
Youngs was also the starter for Borthwick’s final game in charge of Tigers, a home victory over Clermont in the Heineken Champions Cup.
The pair look set to continue their battle for a starting spot in the spring and if Borthwick is looking for leaders and familiar faces to ease his transition to power, then Youngs ticks both boxes.