Countdown to 2013 Six Nations continues

Getty Images and James Mortimer     28 Jan 2013     Getty Images

Wales, with interim head coach Rob Howley at the helm, will be looking to defend their title, following last year’s Grand Slam – their third in eight years.

They open up on Feburary 2 against Ireland, who will have Jamie Heaslip as their skipper for the first time in a RBS 6 Nations campaign.

A year ago in Dublin it was Wales' incredible comeback, capped off by Leigh Halfpenny's last-gasp penalty, which set the ball rolling for the Grand Slam.

England, second last year, will be led by Chris Robshaw, who resumes his captaincy from the autumn internationals which culminated in a memorable victory over New Zealand.

They will begin their title bid against Scotland, who like the Red Rose last year, have an interim head coach in the shape of Scott Johnson.

Johnson finds himself in a similar position to England coach Stuart Lancaster 12 months ago, and will hope to emulate Lancaster's winning start away to the Auld Enemy to claim the Calcutta Cup.

Another new competition captain will be seen in third of the opening fixtures as Pascal Pape retains the armband following France’s autumn campaign, which saw victories over Australia, Argentina and Samoa.

Les Bleus will travel to Italy and will be looking to avenge their historic loss to the Italians in 2011, however France coach Philippe Saint-Andre opened his tenure with a win in Paris last year at home to the Azzurri.