England's preparation for the opening Test of the 2016 Old Mutual Wealth series started when they met up as a wider squad at the Lensbury in London back in August. The coaching team had done their homework in terms of the commonalities found during England's decade of defeats against the Springboks and started the process of turning that record round.
Since Eddie Jones has been in charge England are unbeaten and importantly have started to look like a side that are going places. However, the harsh reality is that during the opening six matches that he's been in charge England haven't been truly tested against the sides that set the standard in world rugby.
The long and the short of it is that we're in for a test match that's filled with motivation, in spite of many believing it to be a nuisance and pointless. Although it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work it out Eddie Jones will announce his starting XV and bench on Friday and personally I can't wait to see what this group of players can do on home soil.
On Sunday afternoon Eddie Jones announced the 26-man squad for the forthcoming test against Wales and then the 32-man squad that will head to Australia. Alongside some familiar faces England's head coach has included 4 uncapped players that will be on the plane to Australia; Ben Te'o, Teimana Harrison, Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler.
English rugby was in a difficult spot after the Rugby World Cup, but one right appointment has turned everything around. Of course professional sport is a fickle business that's all about winning, if England lose all 3 tests in Australia then the picture won't be as rosy or positive, however I can't see that happening. England's young squad are now charging confidently forwards and they have the belief, and ability, to continue on an upwards trajectory for seasons and years to come.
Eddie Jones may not be a native Englishman however he fully understands the ferocity of the rivalry between England and Wales. It is the most potent of all in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the one that has provided some of the most intense RBS 6 Nations test matches in recent years and Saturday's will have an extra edge due to their recent history...
What makes this year's Six Nations so exciting is match-ups like these, match-ups that will potentially go down in rugby folklore, and I personally cannot wait for the theatre, the action to begin. A world of pain lies in wait for the defences of both teams and when these two titans have the ball, prepare for the ground to shake.
With all due respect to Scotland and Italy, England's true tests are on the way. Looking ahead to this weekend Ireland may be ravaged by injuries however in spite of that their aerial game remains. In the pre-Rugby World Cup meeting between England and Ireland the home side played 40 minutes of textbook rugby against Joe Schmidt's men; they pinned Ireland back in their own half and finished off two great opportunities and they could have taken had more.
There are two ways of looking at England's 40 - 9 victory over Italy. One is to focus on the opening 50 minutes and pick holes in the side and the other is to take the match as a whole and focus on the manner in which Eddie Jones' side accelerated away from the Italians. I'll let you hazard a guess as to which viewpoint I'm about to write from...
Scotland's World Cup was extremely productive and, by in large, positive whereas England's was testing, taxing and at times torturous. The view in Scotland, and many other places, was that this would be the year that the Scots finally re-gained the Calcutta Cup and in doing so make the start of Eddie Jones' reign a challenging one.
I've been lucky enough to attend some major sports events during a long career - the Olympics included - but there's something very special about the Six Nations. It's the spectacle, the history and tradition, sold out stadiums across fabulous capital cities. Yes rugby fans love it, but so too my mum. Such is the appeal of this grand old tournament over 24million people tuned in last year on (BBC) TV in the UK with nine million alone watching the thrilling climax.
To some choosing Dylan Hartley as captain will appear crazy while to others it is inspired choice. Ultimately the opinion of those outside of England's camp matters little, instead it will be about how this England squad responds to their new captain and how their captain embraces the honour, and pressure, that has been bestowed on his shoulders.
England's new head coach is not your shy and retiring type, far from it, instead he is a charismatic and forthright Australian that knows what he wants. He has made it very clear that this will be his International side that beats to the sound of his drum, and today he made his first significant step towards that by announcing the 33 individuals in the RBS 6 Nations and Elite Player Squad.