It is unfortunate that the Six Nations hogs the headlines at this point in the calendar because this is also the time of year when the Premiership Rugby season is defined.
Well into the second half of the campaign, the attritional nature of the competition plays a part, the stop-start programme around the start of the new year presents its own problems and, of course, teams are affected by injuries and international commitments.
It’s not even a case of just ‘coping without’ as non-English internationals return in their fallow weeks during the Six Nations while the England bosses have to try to balance playing time against resting time for their players. There are the shifting sands that club coaches must negotiate.
For Tigers, with a sizeable international contingent, this period has always provided a challenge; this year particularly so with three of the four games in the Gallagher Premiership block to be played away from home – at Saracens, Worcester and Sale.
Sarries are the league’s defending champions, Warriors have already won at Welford Road this season and Sale have emerged as genuine contenders with some of the league’s in-form individuals playing a central part.
There is also a home derby with Wasps.
With the Premiership table as tight as it has ever been, and only six rounds left to play once the internationals return full-time, every point here will have to crow-barred out of a rivals’ grasp.
But it is also the time of year which can present a springboard for what is to follow and for heroes to make their mark and ensure that, when it comes to the shake-up, Tigers remain right in the thick of it.
While the Six Nations is taking centrestage, however, let us rejoice at Jonny May’s first-half hat-trick against France last weekend,
Watching the re-run now for a third or fourth time, two things struck The Tig. First, there was Tig Blog from the previous week which talked about the importance of an early try. (Told you so!) And second, while Jonny’s reading of the game, eye for an opportunity and flat-out pace occupied the spotlight, what struck here was his composure.
Just 60-odd seconds into a white-hot game, Jonny ran full tilt on to kick up to the tryline and had a clinical coolness to use one hand to press down on the ball. No fuss, just a man totally focused on ensuring an early chance brought priceless points.
For try two, he had time to think as a long pass made its way to the left wing. But he kept his focus and his cool, stood up the defender with neat footwork and made one bound to the line.
Number three, Chris Ashton prodded through a tidy kick and Jonny timed his run to perfection, scooping up the ball in one hand for his hat-trick score. In real time, it could look like he’d palmed it forward, but there is real beauty when you see the control again in slow motion.
Is there a wing in better form anywhere in international rugby?