Six Nations tickets on sale now.
The opening weekend of the RBS Six Nations 2012 kicks off on Saturday, and there are some huge fixtures coming up.
France begin the tournament by hosting Italy on Saturday 4th February, and will hope to get their campaign off to a strong start against traditionally one of the weaker sides of the tournament.
The French were the last team to win the Grand Slam, triumphing in 2010, and the Gallic flair and play through the team’s backs ought to seal a fine win.
Certainly an Italian victory would be considered a huge upset – France have won almost 94% of their matches against Italy, and are widely tipped to win again at the Stade de France.
However, in 2011, Italy gained one of the greatest results in their history.
They beat France 22-11 at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome, and the match will live long in the memory.
Will this year’s game be a similar classic?
France vs Italy tickets are available now from £24.
England will then face Scotland at Murrayfield on the same day, with new captain Chris Robshaw set for something of a baptism of fire in one of rugby union’s most intimidating atmospheres.
Tom Croft, Dylan Hartley and Ben Foden will likely give him a helping hand in the leadership role, with coach Stuart Lancaster also auditioning for the permanent job.
Having won the tournament last year, England will hope to retain their title, but will have bigger dreams of capturing the Grand Slam after missing out in the final match in 2011.
Scotland have a very real chance of causing them trouble though, with the England team in something of a transition.
Scotland vs England tickets are on sale from £70.
Finally, Ireland welcome Wales to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Sunday 5th February to conclude the opening round of fixtures.
Last year’s game, won by the Welsh by 19-13 – was notable for Irish talisman Brian O’Driscoll equalling the tournament record of 24 tries.
He went on to score again against England in the final match, simultaneously dismissing England’s hopes of landing the Grand Slam and claiming the try record for himself.
O’Driscoll will miss the 2012 RBS Six Nations though, and Ireland will have to make do without their captain.
Wales meanwhile will look to Warren Gatland to continue their impressive progress in recent years.
Having won the Grand Slam under his stewardship in 2008, Wales reached last year’s World Cup semi-final, losing to France somewhat controversially.
There are real hopes that this generation of Welsh rugby players could be the most gifted in some time, with 21 year-old winger Alex Cuthbert in line to be unleashed against the Irish.
Ireland vs Wales tickets are on sale now from £105.
Six Nations Championship tickets are also available for the rest of the tournaments fixtures.