It could have gone horribly wrong in so many ways between the time England’s players left the team bus for their pre-match parade through the green-wellied set in the swanky west car park – who could be sure that Chris Robshaw would not do himself a mischief slipping on a sliver of smoked salmon, or tripping over a bottle of Chablis? – and the final white-knuckle moments of a memorable struggle, when Joe Launchbury somehow found the energy to make the tap-tackle that won the game, defying all rugby logic. The fact that things ultimately went so right confirmed that Robshaw and company will take an awful lot of beating when the World Cup comes to town next year.
Stuart Lancaster has selected a back-line with just 91 caps between them which includes debutants Nowell and Burrell
Warburton became the first to agree a deal with the Welsh Rugby Union that will keep him playing for the Cardiff Blues
Fair play to Stuart Lancaster. Winning a first cap playing against France in Paris is a huge challenge – I cannot overemphasise what a tough, incredibly hostile setting it is to go and start your international career. It’s physically and mentally one of the most imposing places to take your first steps, but you have to admire the choice Lancaster has made for the opening game of what is a big tournament for the England coach and his side.
Ahead of England’s crucial first game against France, their feisty hooker admits that front-row tactics have had to change
Madigan and his Leinster half-back partner Isaac Boss scored a try apiece to give Ireland second XV victory
The 30-year-old utility back, now with Rovigo in his homeland, has stood out this season and earnt a recall from national coach Jacques Brunel
Fixture list favours Wales this year although they still face a testing trip to Twickenham to take on England on March 9
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 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.
The captain has been struggling with an injury since November
Cap set to rise by almost 10 per cent this year – the first increase in two seasons
Thomas is expected to join Bath at the end of the season while Gaskell has been linked with a move to London Wasps
Davies is not expected to return until March at the earliest while Warburton has been sidelined in recent weeks
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
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