A trip to Paris in February always sounds like a romantic proposition, but the only red roses England are likely to see will be stitched on to their skin-tight jerseys when they journey across la Manche this weekend.
The RBS 6 Nations returns on Saturday with Stuart Lancaster’s ever-evolving England opening their 2014 campaign against old foes France, last year’s surprise wooden spoon recipients.
Lancaster has never been shy of making bold decisions and he has chosen the cauldron of the Stade de France to blood Jack Nowell, Luther Burrell and Jonny May.
The coach has talked confidently of the young trio’s capabilities, but who exactly are the new triumvirate in England’s backline?
The 20-year-old Exeter flyer was just nine when England celebrated their last Grand Slam in 2003 and only made his Premiership debut at the end of 2012.
Lancaster has talked about his potential X-Factor, while Opta ranked him as the top-performing back in last season’s LV=Cup – all the more remarkable as the Chiefs didn’t even make the knock-out stages.
Nowell, the son of a Cornish trawlerman, has confidence on French soil too, having played in the England Under-20 side that lifted the Junior World Championship last year, scoring a try in the final.
Of the three, Lancaster probably knows the 26-year-old Burrell best.
It was while academy coach at Leeds that he rejected the player, only to change his mind following a heartfelt two-page letter from Burrell’s mother Joyce, a nurse.
His career stumbled after that point before Northampton took a chance and the 6ft 3in, 17-stone bruiser with genuine pace has shone, and is arguably the form centre in the Premiership.
The 23-year-old May will be making his RBS Six Nations debut, having earned his first England cap on the summer tour of Argentina last year.
The Gloucester winger has recorded a time of 4.63 seconds over 40m – 0.01 faster than Usain Bolt registered en route to his 100m world record in 2009. May, however, likes to point out though he was running out of steam some 10 metres later!
A keen athlete growing up, he also used to compete in the pole vault and was in the top five in the country for his age in the event.
England will be looking for May and his fellow new boys to help them raise the bar as they aim to go one better than last year’s runners-up finish in the RBS Six Nations.