THE winds of change are blowing through this year's Six Nations championship, which kicks off tomorrow.

Four of the six participants have a new head coach - France (Fabien Galthie), Ireland (Andy Farrell), Italy (Franco Smith) and Wales (Wayne Pivac).

Why is this? Well, we're at the start of a new Rugby World Cup cycle, with teams looking towards the 2023 tournament in France.

Les Bleus, who are aiming to impress as hosts, named an inexperienced squad for last year's World Cup.

Yet, were it not for Sebastien Vahaamahina's moronic red card (elbowing Wales flanker Aaron Wainwright), they could well have made it to the semi-finals.

And, having won last year's Under-20 World Cup, there's clearly more French talent on the way.

Elsewhere, Farrell and Pivac have big shoes to fill, as they replace serial Six Nations winners Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland.

Farrell Senior v Farrell Junior (also known as England v Ireland) takes place on February 23, with Owen hoping to get one over his dad at Twickenham.

Not that it's been a peaceful build-up for the England captain and his Saracens team-mates.

Seven players in the 34-man squad named by Eddie Jones play for Sarries, who will be relegated from the English top flight at the end of this season following a series of salary cap breaches.

This could well galvanise England, as per the Italian football team's 2006 World Cup win, which followed Juventus' demotion amid the Calciopoli scandal (five out of 23 squad members being Juve players). Maybe.

Should England approach the levels shown during last autumn's semi-final win over New Zealand, they could be unstoppable, but Jones will be equally wary of a post-World Cup final drop-off in performance.

At least their star fly-half hasn't walked out on the eve of the tournament (there's a 2002 Roy Keane parallel here somewhere)...

Gregor Townsend and Scotland had a disappointing World Cup, failing to make the knockout stages, and now they've lost Finn Russell, who was disciplined for a drinking-related "breach of team protocol" and may not feature in the Six Nations.

Back-up No 10 Adam Hastings is an exciting young player, but Russell's talismanic creativity will be sorely missed.

The Women's Six Nations, meanwhile, arrives with the teams two years further on in their World Cup cycle.

The 2021 World Cup will be held in New Zealand, and that will be on England head coach Simon Middleton's mind as the Red Roses prepare to defend their 2019 title.

They will be without several key players, including flanker Marlie Packer, for the tournament, which kicks off with a potentially pivotal clash between the 2018 and 2019 champions, France and England.

And while ex-Taunton RFC players Ben Moon and Sam Skinner are not in the senior England and Scotland squads, respectively, there is a spot for former Heathfield Community School and Taunton player Richard Capstick with England Under-20s.

Capstick, now at Exeter Chiefs, has been named at flanker in U20 head coach Alan Dickens' side to take on France at Stade des Alpes, Grenoble, tomorrow.

Manu Vunipola - a former Burnham-on-Sea junior player - starts at fly-half.

Guinness Six Nations fixtures

Sat, Feb 1: Wales v Italy (2.15pm), Ireland v Scotland (4.45pm).

Sun, Feb 2: France v England (3pm).

Sat, Feb 8: Ireland v Wales (2.15pm), Scotland v England (4.45pm).

Sun, Feb 9: France v Italy (3pm).

Sat, Feb 22: Italy v Scotland (2.15pm), Wales v France (4.45pm).

Sun, Feb 23: England v Ireland (3pm).

Sat, Mar 7: Ireland v Italy (2.15pm), England v Wales (4.45pm).

Sun, Mar 8: Scotland v France (3pm).

Sat, Mar 14: Wales v Scotland (2.15pm), Italy v England (4.45pm), France v Ireland (8pm).

Women's Six Nations fixtures

Sun, Feb 2: France v England (12.30pm), Ireland v Scotland, Wales v Italy (both 1pm).

Sat, Feb 8: France v Italy (8pm).

Sun, Feb 9: Scotland v England (12.10pm), Ireland v Wales (1pm).

Sun, Feb 23: Wales v France (noon), England v Ireland (12.45pm), Italy v Scotland (4pm).

Sat, Mar 7: England v Wales (12.05pm), Scotland v France (7.45pm).

Sun, Mar 8: Ireland v Italy (1pm).

Fri, Mar 13: Wales v Scotland (1.10pm), Italy v England (1.30pm), France v Ireland (3.35pm).

Under-20 Six Nations fixtures

Fri, Jan 31: Ireland v Scotland (7.15pm), Wales v Italy (7.35pm).

Sat, Feb 1: France v England (8pm).

Fri, Feb 7: Ireland v Wales (7.15pm), Scotland v England (7.30pm), France v Italy (8pm).

Fri, Feb 21: Italy v Scotland (6pm), Wales v France (7.35pm), England v Ireland (7.45pm).

Fri, Mar 6: Ireland v Italy (7.15pm), England v Wales (7.45pm), Scotland v France (8pm).

Fri, Mar 13: Wales v Scotland (7.35pm), France v Ireland (8pm).

Sun, Mar 15: Italy v England (5.30pm).