Six Nations, 2017, rugby championship, trophy, captains, England

The Six Nations rugby tournament kicks off this weekend, with England looking to defend their title against Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy.

Six Nations rugby facts

England were the runaway champions in the 2016 edition, clinching the title with a game to spare before completing a Grand Slam.

Eddie Jones' side will start the tournament, to be played with the bonus point this year, as the favourites, but England have been massively his by injuries leading up to the 6 Nations 2017.

How well they cope with those injuries – Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola and Chris Robshaw are some of the key players who will miss the 2017 Six Nations Championship – will decide if England can go all the way again. No doubt, knowing Jones' desire to win every single match, the head coach will demand another Grand Slam,

As it stands, England are the number two ranked side in the world after going through the entire 2016 unbeaten.

However, while England will be fancied to defend their title, it isn't going to be easy, with plenty of contenders this time to win the crown.

Ireland are coming off a year in which they picked up a historic win over the All Blacks and they will be determined to regain the crown they won in 2015.

France are reinvigorated in defence, with new coach Guy Noves slowly looking to bring the flair back to the side as well.

"Our expectations this year are to build a team that continues to improve constantly, to get closer to our opponents," Noves said. "Last year, we had matches we lost that we could have won, and vice versa.

"We're not that far from our opponents, but we must be more efficient. We cross the advantage line more than others, but we do not score, we don't achieve really, so the ratio is not very good.

"We have to try to reverse this ratio, and we must be killers in some areas so that we can chase wins."

Scotland have improved considerably and are seen as the dark horses.

Wales, despite criticism of coach Rob Howley, are always a force.

Italy, who will rely on Sergio Parisse for moments of brilliance, are again expected to take the wooden spoon, but they might throw a spanner or two in the works.

So, with five rounds to be played over two-and-a-half months, expect a lot of surprises and plenty of action.

Rugby Six Nations Championship schedule:

Round One:

Saturday, February 4:

Scotland vs Ireland (2.25pm GMT, 3.25pm CET, 7.55pm IST) at Murrayfield.

England vs France (4.50pm GMT, 5.50pm CET, 10.20pm IST) at Twickenham.

Sunday, February 5:

Italy vs Wales (2pm GMT, 3pm CET, 7.30pm IST) at Stadio Olimpico.

Round Two:

Saturday, February 11:

Italy vs Ireland (2.25pm GMT, 3.25pm CET, 7.55pm IST) at Stadio Olimpico.

Wales vs England (4.50pm GMT, 5.50pm CET, 10.20pm IST) at Millennium Stadium (Principality Stadium).

Sunday, February 12:

France vs Scotland (3pm GMT, 4pm CET, 8.30 pm IST) at Stade de France.

Round Three:

Saturday, February 25:

Scotland vs Wales (2.25pm GMT, 3.25pm CET, 7.55pm IST) at Murrayfield.

Ireland vs France (4.50pm GMT, 5.50pm CET, 10.20pm IST) at Aviva Stadium.

Sunday, February 26:

England vs Italy (3pm GMT, 4pm CET, 8.30pm IST) at Twickenham.

Round 4:

Friday, March 10:

Wales vs Ireland (8pm GMT, 9pm CET, 1.30am IST) at Millennium Stadium.

Saturday, March 11:

Italy vs France (1.30pm GMT, 2.30pm CET, 7pm IST) at Stadio Olimpico.

England vs Scotland (4pm GMT, 5pm CET, 9.30pm IST) at Twickenham.

Round 5:

Saturday, March 18:

Scotland vs Italy (12.30pm GMT, 1.30pm CET, 6pm IST) at Murrayfield.

France vs Wales (2.45pm GMT, 3.45pm CET, 8.15pm IST) at Stade de France.

Ireland vs England (5pm GMT, 6pm CET, 10.30pm IST) at Aviva Stadium.

TV guide:

UK: BBC, ITV. Ireland: RTE. France: FR2. Italy: DMAX. Australia: ESPN and Bein Sports. New Zealand: Sky Sport. USA, Canada: Bein Sports, TV5 Monde. Middle East: Bein Sports Arabia.