The Breakdown: A statistical look at round one of the Six Nations
As the leading sides in Europe prepare to do battle in the Six Nations, we preview the opening matches.
Ireland must address their poor away form when they face France on the opening day of the Six Nations, before England start their quest to win a historic third consecutive title in Rome on Sunday. England are favourites to become the first side to win the tournament outright three times in a row, but Ireland are considered to be the leading contenders to dethrone Eddie Jones' men.
Ireland face a trip to Paris to take on an unpredictable France side starting a new era under head coach Jacques Brunel on Saturday, with England facing perennial strugglers Italy at Stadio Olimpico a day later.All six sides are without key men due to injury, but none more so than Wales, who host an ever-improving Scotland in the first game of the tournament. We take a statistical look at the first round of fixtures in the prestigious tournament.
Wales v Scotland
Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Biggar and Jonathan Davies are on a long list of players unavailable to Wales head coach Warren Gatland for his return to Six Nations duty. In-form wing Josh Adams will make his debut at the Principality Stadium, while Gatland has included no less than 10 Scarlets players in his starting line-up.
Full-back Stuart Hogg returns to the Scotland side and Ali Price gets the nod at scrum-half as they eye another win against Wales after beating them for the first time in 10 attempts last year. Since 2010, Scotland have lost 15 of their 17 away games in the Six Nations, with their only two victories in that period coming against Italy.
France v Ireland
Brunel has put his faith in 19-year-old Matthieu Jalibert to make his debut at fly-half when Ireland visit Stade de France. Ireland have only beaten Les Bleus in the Six Nations twice in Paris (in 2000 and 2014) and lost two of their three away games in the tournament last year.
France lost their opener to England last season, but have not been beaten in their first match of the tournament in consecutive years since 1963-1964. Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale and James Ryan will make their Six Nations debuts for Ireland.
Italy v England
England ought to start the defence of their title with a comfortable victory in the Eternal City. The Azzurri have lost their last 12 matches in the tournament, suffering defeat in 10 on the bounce at home.
Holders England have won all 23 of their matches against Italy, with 18 of those matches coming in this tournament England have only ever lost three of 18 opening fixtures in the Six Nations since 2000; losing to France in 2014 and Wales in both 2008 and 2005.