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It’s strange that a competition almost unchanged in 100 years and with barely a handful of teams can hold the attention of so many every year, but the first weekend of the Six Nations is as exciting as ever. The anticipation of England stumbling to disappoint in the crunch games. Wales winning the Grand Slam or imploding. The French setting stadiums alight with flair and violence. Jonathan Davies looking aghast at another crooked line of defence. All this and more to set the pulse racing as John Inverdale fixes his icy glare on the viewer from a frozen pitchside.
With the added spark of competition for places on the summer Lions Tour, week one kicks off this afternoon at 1.30pm with Wales hosting Ireland – a match in recent times that has decided the championship. This year it offers the Irish a chance to pile further pressure on the faltering Welsh. In Edinburgh, the young Scots will do well to limit a confident England team to 30 points at 4pm. Sunday’s game in Rome (2.25pm, BBC1) may lack the lustre of Saturday’s, but it’s a great opportunity to see if France deserve their status of favourites.