The 2021 Guinness Six Nations is almost here and the excitement is palpable as we countdown to kick-off on Saturday afternoon.
Six teams will contest 15 matches across five weekends in a race to be crowned champions and it all starts in Rome, where Italy host France at the Stadio Olimpico.
England and Scotland will renew their historic rivalry at Twickenham just hours later, marking the first time they have met in London since the epic 38-38 draw from two years ago.
And if that isn’t enough, Wales and Ireland lock horns in Cardiff on Sunday afternoon.
All six head coaches will be dreaming up their starting teams in the next couple of days, and here is when each of them will reveal their squads.
Eddie Jones is the first man to name his XV and he will face the press at 11am to walk everyone through his Calcutta Cup line-up.
There shouldn’t be too many surprises from the defending champions but it will be interesting to see if there is a place for uncapped duo Harry Randall and Paolo Odogwu in the squad.
The front row will also be interesting, with first-choice props Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola unavailable. Ellis Genge, who scored the winning try against Scotland last year, could start at loosehead.
Last year’s runners-up France will reveal their team for Round 1 just half-an-hour after England, as they prepare for the trip to Rome.
Alldritt returns as Galthie finalises France squad
Head coach Fabien Galthie will be without key centre Virimi Vakatawa, who pulled out with an injury this week, and he could be replaced by the talented Arthur Vincent.
No.8 Gregory Alldritt and fly-half Romain Ntamack – who were both on the shortlist for the 2020 Player of the Championship – are also missing through injury, but the likes of Antoine Dupont, Gael Fickou and captain Charles Ollivon provide plenty of fire power.
Scotland have not won the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham since 1983 but they have good memories of their last trip, when they surged from 31-0 down to draw 38-38.
Key to that comeback was fly-half Finn Russell and the talented playmaker is likely to win his 52nd cap after re-entering the Scotland fold following a difficult 2020.
Head coach Gregor Townsend has a big call to make at hooker, with his top two options in Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally sidelined with neck injuries.
Franco Smith is building for the long-term with Italy and that is likely to be reflected in his team to face France in the Guinness Six Nations opener.
There are just four Azzurri players with more than 30 caps in Smith’s Guinness Six Nations squad but the likes of Paolo Garbisi, Niccolo Cannone and Danilo Fischetti are all a year older and wiser in Test match rugby.
Smith will reveal his team on Thursday afternoon.
Sunday’s two teams will name their squads at the time and there will be plenty of interest in Dublin when Andy Farrell announces his starting XV.
Sexton confident he’ll be fit to face Wales
Ireland are confident they will have a fully fit squad to choose from but captain Johnny Sexton picked up a slight hamstring strain last week, while winger James Lowe has not played since November due to a bad groin.
Tadhg Furlong is also in contention and could make his first Test appearance in almost a year after returning from calf and back injuries.
Wales have not lost a Championship home match to Ireland since 2013 and head coach Wayne Pivac will hope that continues this weekend.
The New Zealander will name his side on Friday lunchtime, with captain Alun Wyn Jones expected to lead the side in their latest Guinness Six Nations campaign.
Pivac has a big call to make in the back-row, with the likes of Taulupe Faletau, Aaron Wainwright and Justin Tipuric facing competition from the fit again Josh Navidi and returning Dan Lydiate.