It's an exciting time to be a rugby union fan, with the 2017 Six Nations one of the most eagerly-awaited in many years. After a thrilling autumn, during which several of the European sides rediscovered their mojo, many are predicting an open, attacking tournament. There could even be the odd surprise thrown into the mix.
Last year's Grand Slam winners England go into the Six Nations as favourites following an unbeaten 2016, but Ireland are also hotly tipped on the back of their fantastic win over the All Blacks. Scotland too have been encouraging in the last year and Wales can never be written off, meaning a potentially superb tournament lies in store.
We can’t wait to see how things unfold. Let's take a look at some of the key matches that could determine the destination of the Championship Trophy:
England v France - Saturday 4th February
England's opener against France at Twickenham will give a strong indication as to how Eddie Jones' side will fare in this year's tournament. Injuries to key forwards Billy and Mako Vunipola, and Joe Launchbury are a worry, and surely France will look to exploit any weakness in this area. The long-suffering French will be desperate to improve on last year's performance and naturally keen to shock their rivals in London.
Scotland v Ireland - Saturday 4th February
Murrayfield hosts another exciting Week 1 clash, as Joe Schmidt's Ireland begin their campaign against an improving Scotland. Both sides will be eager to lay down a marker, with Vern Cotter's Scotland attempting to justify their 'dark horses' tag and Ireland eager to pile the pressure on England with a resounding victory. All eyes will be on Edinburgh for this one.
Wales v England - Saturday 11th February
England may have won the last three Six Nations clashes against Wales, but historically they have struggled to beat the Welsh on home turf. With the disastrous 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool A loss still a painful memory, don't bet against a difficult 80 minutes for the favourites in Cardiff. If the England express is to be derailed in 2017, it could be here.
England v Scotland - Saturday 11th March
Round 4’s Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham could present another potential banana skin for England, particularly if Scotland's form holds. There hasn't been a Scottish victory in this fixture since 2008, but the current side – inspired by Jonny Gray - has bags of potential. The recent win over Argentina and a couple of narrow defeats to Australia have surely boosted confidence in the camp.
Ireland v England - Saturday 18th March
If all goes according to plan in the 2017 Six Nations, Ireland and England face a final weekend showdown for both the Championship Trophy and Grand Slam. These two sides have been the standout European performers over the last year, and the whole rugby world is looking forward to their clash in Dublin. Stop the clocks, clear your diary, raise a glass to the fixture schedulers – this promises to be one of the biggest sporting contests of the year.
Sportsworld is offering VIP hospitality packages to England's upcoming 2017 Six Nations fixtures against France, Italy and Scotland at Twickenham. To book your VIP tickets for the home of rugby union, call us today on 0208 971 2966.