As the Six Nations gets underway on Saturday, here are six things we will be looking out for in the opening round of matches
1. How will England start under Eddie Jones?
France also have a new coach after the World Cup, but all of the attention is on the new England boss Eddie Jones going into the 2016 Six Nations.
With a reputation as a master tactician, who led lowly Japan to victory over South Africa in the Rugby World Cup last year, the pressure is on Jones to get England back to the top of the world rankings after a disappointing World Cup campaign.
He’s resisted the temptation to shake things up too much in the aftermath of Stuart Lancaster’s reign, keeping many of the same players in the squad, but installing Dylan Hartley as captain and injecting some uncapped youth into the squad.
With all due respect to Scotland, Jones’s first match in charge could have been harder, but the old rivals north of the border will be keen to derail England’s comeback before it’s even begun.
2. Can Ireland beat the odds and start their title defence with a win?
Two Six Nations titles in a row and Ireland are only third favourites to do the treble. The team has undergone a lot of changes in recent years, with the retirements of Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara and now Paul O’Connell, and key players have been struggling with injuries.
The team they face in week one are the team who are many people’s favourites for the title come March 19 – Wales – and with a weakened team they will face the toughest of starts.
Their entire back line is out, with Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Tommy Bowe all cooped up in the treatment room. The centre partnership of Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw are exciting, but lack the experience of the pair they will face on Saturday, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.
The forward pack is as depleted, if not more, than the backs, with key figures such as Peter O’Mahoney, Sean O’Brien and Cian Healey among those missing.
It’ll surely be one of the stories of the tournament if Ireland can overcome these absences to win against Wales.
3. Will Scotland end their Calcutta Cup losing streak?
It’s been eight years since Scotland beat England in a Test match, when they triumphed 15-9 at Murrayfield.
Apart from a 15-15 draw two years later it’s been all England since then and many of the games haven’t been particularly close.
Scotland have been on the brink of being competitive in the Six Nations for a few years now, but with the mix of youth and experience they now possess could this be the year they move up the results table?
Going forward Scotland look decent, but their defence at the World Cup was what let them down and that will have to change if they are to beat England on Saturday.
4. Will Guy Noves’s bold selections pay off?
Four players will make their debuts in Guy Noves’s first game in charge of France, with three more on the bench.
Players like Mathieu Bastareaud have paid the price for underperformance in recent years by being left out of the Six Nations squad, with three of the debutants starting in the backs.
There is still the core of players who had featured under Philippe Saint-Andre, such as Maxime Medard, Louis Picamoles and Gael Fickou, but this has all the feelings of a fresh start from France, looking for their first Six Nations win since their grand slam in 2010.
5. Can Wales perform under the pressure of being tournament favourites?
Warren Gatland and Wales know all about winning the Six Nations, having won three times in the last eight years and claiming two grand slams in the process.
Wales’s strength is that their team is still full of the players who won in 2012 and 2013, with one or two left from the 2008 victory.
Dan Biggar was a revelation in the World Cup, making the big kicks when needed and that kind of experience will pay dividends in the Six Nations.
Wales also start the Six Nations with a reasonably clean injury slate, having seen their squad decimated by ailments at the World Cup.
Gatland will want to take advantage of Wales’s attacking options, but a win in Ireland on Sunday will be the number one objective.
6. Can Italy repeat 2013 and get only their fourth win on opening day?
The last time Italy played France on opening day they won – one of just three wins they’ve had on day one since they joined the championship in 2000.
It will always be hard for Italy to really challenge in this competition, given the resources they lack compared to the other teams, but France are no world beaters and this could be their chance to claim another famous win.
But Italy are ravaged by injuries, like Ireland, and coach Jacques Brunel will have to get creative if his team are to get much out of this first match.