The start of the Six Nations is within touching distance now, the teams have been named, surprises and all â€“ all that remains is for the rugby to break out.
Predicting who will win the tournament is a notoriously tricky business, as your gut feel and how one actually envisages each individual match panning out can often lead to very different answers.
So without any further ado, here are my predictions for each game week by week, and therefore my Championship prediction:
(Predictions is italics)
Wales v Italy â€“ Wales could not ask for a better way to start the Championship.
France v England â€“ England have picked an exciting team but I just fancy France to respond. Must not get on Lancasterâ€™s back if England do lose though. Very close call.
Ireland v Scotland â€“ Ireland should win, Scotland will be tough though.
Ireland v Wales â€“ Defining game of the Championship perhaps. Ireland, by a whisker.
Scotland v England â€“ England ought to have enough here, if it is wet & wild I reserve the right to change this one though.
France v Italy â€“ At home France will surely not repeat last yearâ€™s debacle against Italy. Surely.
Wales v France â€“ Cannot see Wales losing at home this year, certainly not against France whose physical threat will trouble Wales less than anyone else.
Italy v Scotland â€“ Scotland should pick up a win here, they are getting closer to the others, not further away.
England v Ireland â€“ Another defining game, I fancy England to win this but by this stage it could be about who has the momentum.
Ireland v Italy â€“ Surely Ireland will not wobble against Italy again? Not with Schmidt in charge.
Scotland v France â€“ I actually fancy Scotland to win one of their home games but with Fofana & Bastareaud opposite Scotlandâ€™s weakest area it is tough to predict against France â€“ as with Scotland v England, reserving the right to change depending on the weather.
England v Wales â€“ Wales just have the edge over England at the moment and I cannot see that changing just yet.
Italy v England â€“ Very unlikely to be anything other than an England win.
Wales v Scotland â€“ Wales should have to much power & experience for Scotland
France v Ireland â€“ Where it all began for BOD with that hat-trick in Paris, the romantic in me says he will bow out on a high here.
All of which means that according to my predictions Ireland, France, and Wales will all head in the final round with three wins each under their belts. With my prediction for the final round being that Wales and Ireland will both win then it looks likely that it will come down to points difference between the two side â€“ what an end to the Championship that would be!
Of course any of my predictions could be completely useless though, indeed just to change one prediction would change the entire course of the Championship. For instance if England win in Paris then according to the rest of my predictions it would be England, Ireland, and Wales all playing for the title on the final weekend â€“ and with it coming down to points difference you would fancy England, who have Italy in the last round.
Equally, if Ireland get a result at Twickenham and the rest of my predictions hold true then that would be a glorious Irish Grand Slam in the great Brian Oâ€™Driscollâ€™s final year in the Championships â€“ if that happens even Paul Oâ€™Connell might decide the time is right to end on the ultimate high.
The fact is that almost every game is unbelievable hard to call, even games against Italy are no longer a formality, and while Scotland might not have the capability to mount a title challenge yet they certainly have the ability to pick up a few wins, regardless of opposition â€“ and if the weather stays as it is then they really could mix things up, Matt Scottâ€™s return to fitness is a big boost too, he has â€˜Lion 2017â€™ written all over him.
Conventional wisdom says that this is going to be a Championship that is a battle of contrasting styles between the big three favourites â€“ England, Ireland, and Wales.
Wales are hunting for their third title in a row â€“ a record if they achieve it â€“ and their game will be as it always has been under Gatland, power, power, and then some more power, to create space followed by some magic from the George Northâ€™s of this world. Of all the sides in the 6 Nations, Wales are capable of playing at a level of intensity that can match the likes of New Zealand and South Africa.
Ireland will, one would think, be trying to add a dash of the Leinster style under Joe Schmidtâ€™s guidance. The loss of Sean Oâ€™Brien should not be underestimated, although Ulsterâ€™s Chris Henry is an impressive operator, his gainline busting runs are vital to their momentum. The positive though is that Jamie Heaslip may get his hands on the ball more. The big question is if they can get Jonny Sexton firing. If they can, watch out.
England are clearly going to be trying to play with a bit more pace and urgency if Stuart Lancasterâ€™s bold backline selections v France are anything to go by (I urge you to keep an eye out for Jonny May and Jack Nowell by the way, as exciting a pair of wingers as England have had for many a year). They have a very settled pack now and as ever in rugby that is key â€“ just look at Wales. Their fate is likely to be decided by how quickly this backline settles, their forwards will win ball, no doubt, and Farrell will kick his goals â€“ can they start scoring tries though.
Of course the big question mark that hangs over the whole tournament, as ever, is France. It is a total clichÃ© but it is also absolutely true, you simply do not know which France will turn up. The only certainty is that we know they have got the players to be able to win this tournament. Will Phillipe Saint Andre allow them to play though? Will he pick them week after week and allow them to settle or will he suck the confidence out of the team by making everyone vulnerable? Your guess is as good as mine.
One way or another it promises to be an exciting tournament though, and it ought to be incredibly close. One result can alter the entire course of the Championship so every minute is going to be worth watching.
That final Championship prediction then â€“ Wales, on points difference.
By Angus Savage