LONDON • The first Six Nations following a Rugby World Cup is often a time of renewal, but this year's championship has a particularly fresh feel ahead of the weekend's opening round.
Only England coach Eddie Jones and Scotland's Gregor Townsend remain from last season, with Grand Slam champions Wales (Wayne Pivac), Ireland (Andy Farrell), France (Fabien Galthie) and Italy (Franco Smith) all under new management.
England appear the team to beat after reaching last year's World Cup final in Japan. But the already tough task of reviving morale following a crushing 32-12 defeat by South Africa has been compounded by the salary-cap scandal engulfing English and European champions Saracens. There are seven Saracens in Jones' squad, including captain and playmaker Owen Farrell.
Jones recently proclaimed that his aim is to "make England the greatest rugby team the world has ever seen", even though his contract ends next year.
Since the inaugural 1987 edition, the World Cup has become the yardstick by which Test teams are judged. But he has loftier ambitions.
He said: "I think you can win Grand Slams without playing great rugby, as you can win a World Cup without playing great rugby. I am talking about playing sustainable rugby that people remember."
England open their campaign against hosts France who, but for the reckless loss of control that saw Sebastien Vahaamahina sent off against Wales, might well have reached a World Cup semi-final.
Les Bleus have won the last two Under-20 world titles and former France scrum-half Galthie is in charge of a youthful squad featuring Alexandre Roumat, Damian Penaud and Romain Ntamack, whose fathers all played Test rugby.
"We're trying to put together a team for the long term," said Galthie.
For all the achievements, there remains a sense that Wales have not made the most of their attacking talents. They managed just 10 tries in five matches during last season's Six Nations clean sweep.
Ahead of hosting Italy today, Pivac said: "We're working hard on our attack but it's going to take a little bit of time. Some of the skill sets need to improve but, where there is a will, there is a way."