To England: I don’t hate you. Most of us who actually like rugby rather than nationalism don’t hate you. Except maybe for that Aussie chap who claimed it as a national pastime. Hatred is reserved for people who murder, people who rape or Simon Cowell. We just wish you’d play nicer rugby. Or if you have to win anything, be a bit more gracious about it. And mostly we just wish Jeremy Guscott would stop occasionally saying nice things about Scotland so that he can return to the holy trifecta of Austin Healy and Brian Moore as the people we can shout at on the telly. Now that Laurence has gone, Catty and Corry too, I have one thing to say: best of luck Brian.
To Ireland: the Celtic cousins who we used to beat on a regular basis, I am fervently hoping for a return to this state of affairs. I am not sure what is going on over the pond, but giving Eddie another 4 years on his contract just before some of your worst performances in recent memory may be symptomatic. Give the new lads a run, the Luke Fitzgeralds or the Rob Kearneys of the squad, just to shake up the backs that have been looking at each other for too long at provincial and national level. And give Jackman a run to bring back the spirit of Uncle Fester to Irish hooking.
To Wales: listen to your new coach, and bring some pride back to the valleys, even if he tells you to do it with a kiwi accent. Just be thankful you didn’t get Matt Williams.
To Italy: sorry we beat you in the World Cup, but it was nice to meet you all over in France. You’ve got a new coach with a taste for biltong and when they announced that, I quailed inwardly. I think it means that the gap will narrow further between us all, making wooden spoons a more regular occurrence all round. But really I will smile and say that this is a good thing, because five nations (plus the other three) were alone for far too long.
To France: thanks for your hospitality in October, but I hope you don’t expect us to return the favour on Sunday. The new coaching team may have blown through the old squad like the after effects of too much camembert, but you better make sure that you repay the French public for taking to rugby like the proverbial duck a la eau – if they can’t have Seabass, they will want Triomphe!
To Scotland: It’s been a funny old year but here, this weekend, is your chance to show us what is changing in Scottish rugby. Show us that tackling and kicking are not the only things that you know how to do. Show us that you have the nerve to hold your man and pass when 70,000 people and countless others with a tie to this little country of ours are screaming at you to score. Show us that the promise of the youngsters will not be smothered by the excuse of inexperience. Show us that this is the year when you turn from a good team into a great team, into a team that can hold on for 75 minutes and then grind out the win, not be ground out themselves. Pinch their ball and push them about, and keep the ball. Don’t try and play them at their own game and don’t get pushed about in turn. The era of moral victories is over. The era of “nearly” is over. Assert yourselves and keep going forward and the crowd will be yours, and the country will be yours, and the victory will be yours.
And then we’ll get gubbed by Italy in the grand slam decider. It’s my birthday this weekend, but I don’t care. Because the Six Nations, the greatest tournament in rugby, is about to start.