Sport Mike Brown of England celebrates after scoring the first try during the Six Nations match between Italy and England at the Stadio Olimpico

Another second place for England but this was a step forward from last year. Stuart Lancaster’s side have made strides over this Six Nations, even if he will be looking back at that French game and thinking what might have been.

Alex Cuthbert admits that Wales will be the team to beat ahead of this year's Six Nations

Six Nations 2014: Alex Cuthbert admits rivals will be gunning for Wales as the 'team to beat'

Fixture list favours Wales this year although they still face a testing trip to Twickenham to take on England on March 9

Sam Warburton and Warren Gatland pose with the Six Nations trophy

Six Nations: Sam Warburton insists Wales we take things one game at a time despite talk of an unprecedented hat-trick

Warburton could lead Wales to a third championship success in a row but the victorious British and Irish Lions skipper has stressed the importance of not getting ahead of themselves

Leigh Halfpenny celebrates Cardiff's Amlin Challenge Cup final win over Toulon in 2010

Gloom for Cardiff Blues as Leigh Halfpenny completes his move to Toulon

The full-back has scored over 350 points for Wales

Chris Robshaw and Stuart Lancaster hope to guide England to Six Nations glory

Six Nations 2014: Chris Robshaw hopes growing experience will prove to be deciding factor as England look to improve on second place

Robshaw has led England to the runners-up spot in the past two championships but believes a more experienced core could lead to Six Nations glory

Jonathan Sexton will be the only Irish Six Nations squad member in action this weekend

Six Nations 2014: Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt hoping Jonathan Sexton comes through Racing Metro game unscathed

Sexton will be the only member of Ireland's squad in action this weekend while Schmidt also confirms Keith Earls is a serious doubt for the championship

Brian O’Driscoll is expected to be unflustered by the attention centred on his last Six Nations

Six Nations 2014: Brian O'Driscoll's final bow won't sway focus, claims Joe Schmidt

Brian O'Driscoll was the beating emotional heart of the Lions party in Wallaby country last summer and when the great Ireland centre was dropped for the final Test, thousands upon thousands of rugby followers went into sporting seizure. Many did not forgive Warren Gatland, the coach who made the bravest of brave calls, even when the tourists won in Sydney and completed a first series triumph in 16 years.

Sam Warburton

Six Nations 2014: Sam Warburton expects to lead Wales

The captain has been struggling with an injury since November

On his way: Toby Flood is thought to be lining up a move to Toulouse

Exclusive: Aviva Premiership salary cap to rise in the battle to stop more players moving abroad

Cap set to rise by almost 10 per cent this year – the first increase in two seasons

Ian Evans walks off the pitch after being sent-off during the Ospreys 36-3 defeat to Leinster

Six Nations 2014: Ian Evans made to sweat over possible ban after he is sent-off for alleged stamping in Ospreys defeat

Evans was red carded after appearing to stamp on Leinster forward Mike McCarthy in the 36-3 Heineken Cup loss on Friday night

Freddie Burns is set to play for England Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds

Six Nations 2014: Heineken Cup rigours threaten to derail England preparations

The waiting is the hardest part. Thirty-five players, led by the reappointed national captain Chris Robshaw, will arrive in the England camp between Sunday evening and Monday morning as attention switches from the Heineken Cup – or rather, what is left of the Heineken Cup – to the Six Nations, which begins in a fortnight's time. How many will be in a condition to train before the middle of next week at the earliest? Not as many as the head coach, Stuart Lancaster, would like, almost certainly.

Chris Robshaw

Six Nations: Chris Robshaw will remain England captain, confirms Stuart Lancaster

It will be the third successive Six Nations the Harlequins flanker has been at the helm for

Henry Thomas and James Gaskill will leave Sale Sharks at the end of the season

England prop Henry Thomas and former Saxons captain James Gaskell to leave Sale Sharks, confirms Steve Diamond

Thomas is expected to join Bath at the end of the season while Gaskell has been linked with a move to London Wasps

Wales captain Sam Warburton has been named in the squad for the Six Nations despite missing the last few weeks through injury

Six Nations: Warren Gatland includes injured trio Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies and Gethin Jenkins in 32-man squad

Davies is not expected to return until March at the earliest while Warburton has been sidelined in recent weeks

England head coach Stuart Lancaster is expecting a tough battle at the breakdown when they take on New Zealand

England coach Stuart Lancaster to treat Six Nations duration as a rest period after warning players are 'absolutely hanging'

Lancaster has warned administrators that the Elite Player Squad members need to be looked after better following a gruelling Lions tour and first half of the domestic season

George Ford (L) has been named in the England EPS squad in place of Toby Flood (R)

England: Stuart Lancaster names Elite Player Squad plus cover for Six Nations as injuries pile-up

England will be without a number of key players such as Manu Tuilagi, Alex Corbisiero and Tom Croft forcing Lancaster to name a second squad for next month's tournament

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