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From Soweto to the Six Nations

Carl Hicks Carl Hicks | 11:32 UK time, Friday, 1 February 2008

When he runs out at Murrayfield on Sunday, Scotland's full-back Rory Lamont can probably claim to have had the most unusual build-up to this year's RBS Six Nations Championship.

That's because three weeks ago while his team-mates were battling it out in the various European Club competitions, Rory joined a five day Sport Relief trip to South Africa alongside fellow RBS ambassador Jason Leonard and the BBC's John Inverdale and Jeremy Guscott.

This year Sport Relief will take place over the weekend of March 14-16, which is also the final 'Super Saturday' of this year's Six Nations. As part of the build-up to the big weekend, a crew was put together for a filming trip to South Africa. The group, including myself, visited Sport Relief-funded projects in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban.

Phil Vickery, Ryan Jones, Brian O'Driscoll, and Jason White support Sport Relief

It was a fascinating and, at times, moving few days as we saw people from the poorest parts of South African society who have been helped by the millions of pounds raised by Sport Relief since it began in 2002. The films we made will form part of our coverage throughout this year's Six Nations building up to the final weekend which will coincide with Sport Relief itself on March 14-16. (Go to bbc.co.uk/sportrelief for more details). Watch out for one on Saturday featuring South Africa's World Cup winning winger Bryan Habana who joined us for an afternoon in Pretoria.

Rory went to Africa with bruised ribs and an injured knee, but fortunately he is now fit enough to take his place in Frank Haddon's side - who are some people's outside tip for the title in what is a ridiculously open championship. At 14-1 they are certainly the value bet and lest we forget Wales were 33-1 before their Grand Slam season in 2005.

This year's post-World Cup competition sees three new coaches Marc Lievremont (France), Nick Mallett (Italy) and Warren Gatland (Wales) and a stack of new selections including a young French fly-half, Francois Trinh-Duc of Montpellier, who few of us could pick out in a line-up.

BBC TV's coverage will also have some new faces and features. Gabby Logan joins our team of presenters alongside John Inverdale and Jill Douglas. Gabby is no stranger to rugby union of course. Her bloke won a few caps for Scotland in his day and during her ITV days Gabby presented the 2003 Rugby World Cup from Australia.

Gabby replaces Craig Doyle who has left our team to present football for ITV in the near future. Despite his departure to the 'dark side' I'd like to say a big thanks to Craig for his work with our rugby team and wish him all the best for the future.

Other new faces in our line-up are the Wasps pair of heavyweights Lawrence Dallaglio and Raphael Ibanez. Mr D should need little introduction to our audience as one of the famous leaders of the World Cup sides of both 2003 and 2007 while Raf, as he likes to be known, is the super suave French fella who lifted last year's Championship trophy in his dinner jacket at Stade de France - and captained his country in two World Cups. The injured Italian captain Marco Bortolami will also join us in Rome next week.

Add those three to our expert squad of Jonathan Davies, Jeremy Guscott, Keith Wood, Andy Nicol, Brian Moore, Phillip Matthews, Austin Healey and Gregor Townsend and I reckon we have a team to keep you well informed and entertained through the next seven weeks.

On Saturday at Twickenham we also have one other special guest. South Africa’s World Cup winning coach Jake White will join us for the whole day. Don’t forget, our whole coverage gets underway from 1300 on BBC ONE.

For the second year running all of England, Wales and Scotland's home matches will be shown in High Definition.

As well as every Six Nations match being on BBC television, all of those matches will be streamed on the BBC Sport website (for UK users), and there will be commentary of every game on Radio 5 Live or Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. Very soon after each match, and again for UK users of the website, there will be a five-minute highlights package (with highlights of the first half published at half-time).

And for the first time, the whole match will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer from the day after the match for a period of one week. So if you've been at a game and want to relive it in full, or just find the one specific incident that needs another view, as long as you are in the UK you will be able to do so.

On the pitch, or rather above the pitch, TV viewers should watch out for the launch of "Spidercam" - a moving camera swung on two wires above the action which gives a unique view of the game.

We also pride ourselves on doing something a bit different at the start of our Six Nations coverage. Anyone remember the exploding quarry a few years ago? This year watch out for John Inverdale in a motorised skip belting through the streets of Paris...you'll just have to watch the programme from the start!

And if you are not able to get in front of a TV, website or radio do not forget you can access the BBC's website on your mobile phone or PDA, and you will find latest scores, results, fixtures and the Six Nations table, wherever you are. In fact if stats are your thing, the website will have all the key facts and figures updating live during all of the matches.

England v Wales, Twickenham, 1988

Wales last won at Twickenham 20 years ago and the star of that Triple Crown winning side was Jonathan Davies who will give us his own unique take on the events of that day. And throughout the tournament we'll bring you our team's memories of their Six, or for most, Five Nations' debuts.

Any new championship is a time for optimism, but I really believe this year's tournament, free of the build-up to a World Cup, could be a liberating, flowing rugby experience - unlike some of what we saw last year.

Mind you, unpatriotic though it may be, my tip for the title is the new-look France. And my man of the tournament selection is the man who ultimately denied Ireland a Grand Slam last year - Vincent Clerc. The Toulouse winger never seems to get it wrong and has it all.

Go on, tell me your choice and we'll have a look back in seven weeks time. Enjoy!

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