It would be good if coaches and journalists took a vow not to utter the words “World Cup” till March 17th, the day after the last matches in the Six Nations. To suggest, as people who should know better often do, that the Six Nations should be regarded as a trial or preparation for the World Cup in Japan this autumn is as stupid as it is boring. The Six Nations tournament has history on its side, and for dyed–in–the–wool rugby people it’s the high spot of the sporting year. In comparison the RWC is a parvenu. Moreover, there are no soft and precious few one-sided matches in the Six Nations, which certainly isn’t the case with the World Cup. Italy may struggle to record wins, but they compete very hard. At Twickenham two years ago, they made England look very silly for fifty minutes.

The Six Nations is always hard to win. Favourites often come unstuck. There is only one certainty: it’s very difficult to win away from home. Last season only Ireland did so, and, accordingly, won a Grand Slam. But they were within seconds of losing their first match in Paris, rescued only by Johnny Sexton’s drop goal in the 82nd or 83rd minute. Any knock-on in the build-up would have ended the match.