The English Premiership starts next week. It will be the warm up for what could be quite an interesting international window.
Will France be able to maintain their excellent form? What of Wales and Ireland, surely at least one of them will come out guns blazing. With Joey Carbery and Gareth Anscombe in the mix, it could be both. And Japan, will their players get any game time before the 8 nations? And will they even need it, the lack of game time seemed to work in their favour at the world cup last year, but things are different away from home.
Then we have the English, the founders of rugby. The home of an epic national league. English rugby has so much going for it. Here is a look at an all attacking English 23.
1. Mako Vunipola
2. Luke Cowan-dickie
3. Kyle Sinckler. The hands of a God.
4. Maro Itoje
5. Alex Dombrant
6. Sam Underhill
7. Tom Curry
8. Billy Vunipola
The all attacking forward pack could struggle in the scrum and line-out, with Dombrant (23) far more acquainted with back-row responsibilities. But the rest of the pack should be able to help carry Dombrant while he learns the ropes. Dombrant starting at lock could be trialed against Italy or Fiji. Dombrant, 1.93 cm, vs Leone Nakarawa..the ultimate showdown.
If England want to be the world's best, they need to be able to win their own scrums and line-outs with this starting team. Once they have secured the ball, then we will see an attacking pack like never before.
9. Willie Heinz
Is he the best option? its debatable, but England's scrum-half stocks seem to be somewhat limited when compared with Wales, Ireland, SA or NZ. But this still feels like the right call, Willie has a good attacking game and will be massively motivated after missing the WC final through injury. What a different final we may have seen if Willie played and Ben Spencer wasn't flown in a few days before.
10. Danny Cipriani
We believe in you Danny. Such a raw talent. Its never too late.
11. Joe Cokanasiga
A risky decision to choose the youngster over Anthony Watson, but if he is struggling, experienced Watson can come on early and steer the ship. Thats just worst case scenario, best case scenario, Cokanasiga scores a hat rick of tries and opposition players.
12. Owen Farrell
13. Manu Tuilagi
14. Jack Nowell
15. Elliot Daly. Can also cover 13 or wing.
16. Jamie George
George is the best England Hooker in the loose. He's a natural player with vision, power and pace. George would be better suited to a second half with much more space. He can also normally be trusted to throw the pressure line-out if need be. He should always be given at least half an hour to play, coming on after the slightly more attritional, Cowan Dicke, wears down the opponents. And if Cowan Dickie went down early or is struggling with his starting role, George would be no stranger to a full game of rugby.
17. Joe Marler. Very powerful in the scrum.
18. Harry Williams/Dane Cole
Its just important for these props to make sure they get good ball. The loose-forward ladled bench will take care of the rest.
19. Courtney Lawes
The Angry dog. With two loose forewords on the bench he will be solely covering lock.
20. Zach Mercer
Titanium shoulders. Pace and skills. Has played a big part in Bath's (limited) success in the last few years.
21. Ben Earl
Earl will be spending the season with the Bristol Bears while Saracens pay their dues in the Championship. Earl has electric pace and has the ability to break opposition defence. With the attritional 6/2 forwards and backs split, Earl may have to cover the wing, which he certainly has the pace to do. Earl and Mercer coming on in the in the 65th minute could be a draining sight for opposition.
22. Ben Youngs. Ben would suit his new role on the bench. A calming presence.
23. Anthony Watson
Many have read in Eddie's book that he thinks George Ford is simply better than Cipriani. What people don't realise is that Eddie was being sarcastic. He is just being Eddie and challenging Cipriani back to the top of his game. Not that Fordy isn't a good player, but everyone that knows rugby knows that Danny Cipriani has something no-one else has.
Questions may arise about Eliot Daly. Does he have the ability to stand at first receiver? But then we remember. Farrell is at 12. So no need for Elliot in the tighter channels, he can stay out wide and flourish. Then we have Joe. Joe Cokanasinga didn't play much at the world cup. But a new year brings a new world cup cycle. Joe will be pushing for that starting World Cup spot.