The Official Online RBS 6 Nations Store is open. The store has everything you need to get behind your team during the RBS 6 Nations, plus the store is now fully stocked with a much wider range of rugby merchandise.
Wales are the only side who retain the same coach-and-captain combination from New Zealand, with Warren Gatland and Sam Warburton hoping to build on an impressive campaign.
RBS 6 Nations Chairman David Pickering is confident the 2012 edition of the tournament will be one of the most unpredictable yet with every team set to unveil new talent.
He said: “It is the first RBS 6 Nations after the World Cup and for some it is a time for change. There are new faces in the coaching and playing side and this can only add to the anticipation and excitement when we could see new stars come forward.
“Gone are stars from previous Six Nations such as Jonny Wilkinson and Shane Williams but there will be stars of tomorrow that will emerge in this Championship.
“The RBS 6 Nations is the oldest and most famous rugby tournament in the world. It is also the most attended rugby tournament in the world and is the standard bearer as the greatest rugby tournament on earth.”
This edition of the RBS 6 Nations will see a change of stadium for the Azzurri who will take on England and Scotland in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico while the iconic Stadio Flaminio is redeveloped.
Before that Italy face a trip to Paris where they will open the tournament against Philippe Saint-André’s France who will be anxious to avenge last year’s historic 22-21 defeat in Rome.
Pickering added: “This year we are delighted to see the new Olympic stadium used in Italy for the first time. That will only drive attendances northward for the RBS 6 Nations Championship. Our relationships with our broadcasters have gone from strength to strength. We re-signed TV deals that will help our success and sustainability.
“The Six Nations will kick off in Paris at 14.30 where France will challenge in Italy in what I am sure will be a mouth-watering event after last year’s result before the tournament closes at Twickenham for the clash between England and Ireland.”
Les Bleus will kick off the tournament against Italy looking to put their World Cup final defeat to the All Blacks behind them and Saint-André admitted his biggest challenge would be to put an end to the dreaded French inconsistency.
He said: “This is French rugby for the last four years – for the last 100 years.
“We can be one day up here and one day near to the floor.
“The biggest challenge – and we spoke with the players about this – is to try to be very consistent.”
Meanwhile Wales coach Gatland took advantage of the launch to reveal that he will be without star prop Gethin Jenkins for the opening two games of the RBS 6 Nations.
Jenkins was forced off during the Cardiff Blues’ win over Racing-Metro on Sunday with a knee injury and will be unavailable for the trip to Paul O’Connell led Ireland and the visit of Scotland.
“Gethin is struggling and could be out for four to five weeks,” said Gatland.
“He is a huge loss for us for potentially the first two games of the tournament.
“He’s been playing exceptionally well for the Blues in the last month.”
England interim head coach Stuart Lancaster again sought to distance himself from the previous regime insisting he will do things his own way, starting with a mouth-watering Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland, who will be led by Ross Ford, on February 4.
“There’s a lot of people giving me advice,” said Lancaster.
“Fortunately, I’m confident in my own coaching philosophy to believe in the way I think things should be done.
“We want to be known as a humble, hard-working, honest team who graft and get on with the job and represent England with pride.”