I’m in Seville for the World Sevens Series, whetting my appetite for the festival of international rugby that is the Six Nations.
It’s the best championship on the planet, and what will be interesting this year is how the Premiership clubs cope with losing internationals.
Only Worcester failed to get a player in the England squad but every top-flight side will lose players to at least one of the six squads in the competition.
Some sides will be hit in key areas while others should be able to go on close to normal. What’s for certain is that there will be a series of winners and losers from the next two months.
It might sound controversial to some but I think Saracens will come out as winners. They will be without some key players including England captain Owen Farrell – who is injured – but they’ve retained Mako and Billy Vunipola and they’re likely to get Elliot Daly and Nick Isiekwe – late call-ups to the England training squad in Brighton – back too
They have a kind schedule of games, and though they’ll play the likes of Bristol and Harlequins, they should be able to hold their own against depleted opponents.
Gloucester are set to be the other winner towards the top of the table, especially if centre Mark Atkinson isn’t selected by Eddie Jones and returns to the West Country.
They’ve retained their first-choice scrum-half and fly-half and are one of the few teams with brilliant back-up options on the wing – Santiago Carreras and Ollie Thorley in place of Jonny May and Louis Rees-Zammit.
With matches including Newcastle this weekend and London Irish at home, the Cherry and Whites will be hoping to cement their top-four place.
The surprise winner, though, after this week could be Worcester. Steve Diamond has taken charge and has made no secret that he’ll be taking his boys back to basics.
They’ll lose a few lads to Scotland but the majority of their side will be together and in the hands of Diamond, who’s perfect for an underachieving club like the Warriors.
As for the clubs who’ll suffer most from the Six Nations, I think it will come down to Harlequins, Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints.
Harlequins quite simply are losing the spine of their squad – Joe Marler, Alex Dombrandt, Marcus Smith, Luke Northmore, Joe Marchant are all with England at the moment.
They seemed to struggle in Europe last Friday without Smith from the get-go so I am curious to see whether they can string some results together.
They have a huge top-four clash with Saracens to come – though why this was scheduled in the Six Nations window is beyond me.
Leicester too are losing a core of key players, including their No9 and No10 combo of Ben Youngs and George Ford.
Tigers will also be without Freddie Steward in the backs, but they proved in the autumn that they have depth.
East Midlands rivals Saints could struggle too. They’re without Dan Biggar and Courtney Lawes but they’re also giving up a host of versatile players to both England and Scotland – who have Rory Hutchinson.
They’re a good side but never seem to put the full 80 together and could struggle without their leaders.
Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.