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In Pics: Six Nations Launch

In Pics: Six Nations Launch

Pictured below: The team captains for the 2007 RBS 6 Nations – Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Stephen Jones (Wales), Marco Bortolami (Italy), Chris Paterson (Scotland), Phil Vickery (England) and Fabien Pelous (France) – pose with the trophy at the official launch at London’s Hurlingham Club.

O’Driscoll, who turned 28 last Sunday, was asked about Ireland being rated as favourites for the title at the subsequent press conference. He admitted: “I guess someone has to be favourites. Each Six Nations, some team always gets that mantle from the results they have gotten in the autumn. I guess that’s why it points to us.

“But we’ve been favourites before and not won, so I think you don’t read too much into it. Hopefully we are better for the experience of having been there before and not quite done it. I don’t think it’s now or never. Two years ago, I said why not now rather than another time and that’s the same philosophy everyone is adopting now.”

The skippers indulge in a snowball fight with the film crews and photographers who had gathered at the Hurlingham Club. Wasps prop Phil Vickery, who has replaced Leicester’s Martin Corry as England captain, talked afterwards about his anticipation of the Ireland v England clash on February 24, which, in a history-making move, is being played at GAA headquarters at Croke Park.

Vickery said: “I understand Croke Park’s a sacred place and one which has never allowed other games there. It’s a huge honour and privilege to be able to play there. I only know a little bit about it because I wouldn’t have read about it all.

“It’s a huge honour for us to be able to just walk in there, let alone play a game in there. It’s just going to be a great occasion. It’s one I am certainly looking forward to anyway.”

Fabien Pelous, Brian O’Driscoll and Phil Vickery take aim. O’Driscoll, who regularly played Gaelic football during his primary school days, came quite close to actually playing at Croke Park in an underage match before he switched schools.

“I guess I never though I would be playing rugby at Croke Park. I changed school when I was 12 and I acutally would have been involved in a Leinster final there had I not changed,” he revealed. “Maybe I felt that was my best opportunity but when the talk arose that Ireland could play rugby there, it was an exciting prospect.”

Pelous gets pelted with snowballs

There are winces all around as France’s Fabien Pelous gets pelted with snowballs by his fellow captains. The giant Toulouse lock, who sprained his left ankle against Llanelli in the Heineken Cup last month, had been expected to be fit for the start of the Six Nations, but he admitted on Wednesday: “I don’t know if I will make the game against Italy. I am back running again but there is still pain.”

Asked about the hype surrounding France’s historic visit to Croke Park on February 11, the 33-year-old added: “I don’t think Croke Park will be a distraction for us. The most important thing is the 15 players against 15, not the fact that it’s at Croke Park. It’s what happens between the white lines.”

Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll shares a joke with Welsh skipper Stephen Jones

Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll shares a joke with Welsh skipper Stephen Jones as the pair strole out to have their photograph taken in the chilly London air. When Ireland last met Wales at the Millennium Stadium in March 2005, the Dragons, then coached by Mike Ruddock, roared out to a 32-20 victory which secured them the championship and a first Grand Slam since 1978.

Looking back on that defeat, O’Driscoll conceded: “You never like losing and you try and banish the memories of the last time having played there and that’s what we will be going over to do. But it’s not solely about getting revenge for that game. We have won there before and we’ll try and remember how we went about doing that.

“We just want to start with our performance levels at a standard we’ve set ourselves and take it from there. I don’t think we’ll dwell too much on getting retribution.”

6 Nations Captains holding the 6 Nations trophy

The Six Nations trophy, which was first thought of by the Earl of Westmorland and first presented in 1993, is made of 200 ounces of sterling silver and is insured for GBP£55,000. It was designed by James Brent-Ward, a silversmith designer, and made by eight craftsmen at the London silversmight firm, Willim Comyns.

The inside of the trophy has been lined with 22 carat gold to protect it. The capacity of it is exactly five bottles of champagne. The trophy has a lip at the rim so that it is easy to drink from!

Ireland are the current holders of the Triple Crown trophy, a silver dish weighing three kilos. A physical trophy, produced by Hamilton and Inches of Edinburgh, was first awarded last year. The honour has been competed for by the home unions – Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales – since 1893

Stephen Jones, Wales' number 10 and new skipper, lines up alongside Brian O'Driscoll,

Stephen Jones, Wales’ number 10 and new skipper, lines up alongside Brian O’Driscoll, one of the opponents he will face when Ireland visit the Millennium Stadium on Sunday week. Jones, arguably in the form of his life with Heineken Cup quarter-finalists Llanelli, is anticipating a real battle against an “in form” Irish side.

He said: “We realise we’re up against a very good Irish side who are in form. They’ve been together a long time, they’ve got a side that’s very experienced and they are comfortable with the game plan which they plan.

“They’ve gathered a lot of momentum and they’ve had good results, especially in the autumn campaign when they were superb, so they will be confident and looking forward to playing us. But we’ve got a young squad which is very excited and looking forward to the challenge.”

Brian O'Driscoll and Eddie O'Sullivan are surrounded by journalists

Brian O’Driscoll and Eddie O’Sullivan are surrounded by journalists as they take part in a press conference at the official RBS 6 Nations championship launch in London.

Asked about the knee injury which will see Shane Horgan sit out the start of Ireland’s title tilt, O’Sullivan said: “It’s obviously very disappointing to be without Shane for the start of the campaign but I’m relieved to hear that it’s not much more than that.

“On Friday the injury looked quite sever and it could have been worse. He is a talisman on and off the field but you are always going to have the risk of losing a player like that.”