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Six Nations: All in the balance on opening day

Spring is in the air and anything seems possible at the beginning of a new international year.

Image: David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

OF THE FOUR countries involved in the opening day of the 2012 Six Nations there is only one without a new coach at the helm.

Having been scape-goated for the performances of a poor English side Andy Robinson will surely relish welcoming his home nation into Edinburgh this evening.

The challenge he faces is to deliver a performance. Scotland rarely shirk a challenge from the red rose army, but it has been an awful long time since there was so much expectation placed on the Thistle going into a Calcutta Cup match.

Ireland against Wales is undoubtedly the plum fixture of the opening round, but events at Murrayfield will shape the tournament fortunes for both England and Scotland.

Lose, and Stuart Lancaster will have practically forfeit his claim on the role of head coach, his team (still containing plenty of prima donnas) will know that too.

The extra effort will drain from the hearts of the few remaining experienced heads and they will simply wait for the next boss to come along before they really commit. The young kids arriving into the side won’t be able to swing that attitude around.

Two points for Scotland will equal their total from last year, anything more before March 17 will be a bonus. Robinson can sit watching from the stands in the Aviva, the Millenium and Stadio Olimpico, smug and safe in the knowledge that his job remains secure.

The early kick-off in Paris today is a matter of how many, not if. But in Edinburgh it’s all on the line.

Should England prevail, this young side will feel anything is possible: ‘Auntie’ will talk of banished World Cup ghosts the word ‘gate’ may finally be removed from half of the stories which surround the RFU.

Yes, the chariot will rumble into Rome and return to Twickenham full of pomp and purpose. The words “twenty-fifteen’ will escape the lips of somebody sitting within earshot of Keith Woods or Paul Wallace.

Eddie O’Sullivan highlighted last week that Lancaster’s only previous elite coaching role was with the England Saxons. A job, O’Sullivan reckons, is one of the easiest in world rugby. The man who tread a much firmer path in Connacht and the USA was not envious.

This evening, the wide-eyed former Saxons boss will be pitting his wits against a man holding a sense of injustice. A wily campaigner who has coached in the Six Nations for four of the last eight years with the intervening four seasons spent laying down roots in Edinburgh as a celtic league coach.

For a man who is brand new to international rugby, Lancaster is in for a hell of a first test.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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