As you may have noticed, it's Six Nations time, a riot of colour, national pride and surreptitious eye-gouging. What's it got to do with construction? Well, it just so happens that some very big names have brought their formidable talents to the industry. Building headed down to Twickers to hear their game plans … and their predictions for Sunday's France vs England match.

Rory Underwood

Then: 85 caps for England, 49 tries (England's record try scorer).
Now: Director of management training company UPH

Rory Underwood

Rory Underwood

Underwood's speed and strength on the wing made him one of the rugby world's most feared finishers. From winning Grand Slams with England and scoring a record five times against Fiji in 1989, to the disappointment of losing the 1991 World Cup final against Australia, Underwood has seen it all. But, he says, it's impossible to pick a single favourite moment from his 12-year international career.

"There are so many great memories," he says. "The World Cup final, scoring all those tries for England, winning three Grand Slams, scoring tries for Leicester. Each one has a different reason to be special."

Outside rugby, Underwood's career in the RAF as a flight lieutenant is well known. But his latest venture, the management training set-up UPH, which provides "leadership and team development programmes", is now aiming to make its mark on the construction industry. Founded by Underwood and two partners, former RAF pilot and Gulf War prisoner of war John Peters and "international survival specialist" Martyn Helliwell, the firm already has Skanska on its client list.

So which is scarier - facing the All Blacks or coaching a team of contractors on health and safety? "When I'm standing up in front of the All Blacks it's because I'm reasonably good at rugby," says Underwood. "But with the builders I'm there for what I know about health and safety, not construction - it just means having to put everything into perspective, so that they know where I'm coming from."

Underwood describes his first impressions of the industry as a "revelation". "You can have an image of what a building site is like, with a lot of blokes in hard hats calling out to women and all the rest of it. But it wasn't like that at all. I've been really impressed at the effort that goes into health and safety on sites."

And if he can't pick a greatest moment in rugby, he can pick one in construction - although it certainly doesn't match a World Cup final. "The highlight so far was probably speaking at the Specialist Contractors Awards in 2005 - we got very positive feedback."

As for his prediction for Sunday's match at the Stade de France, Underwood stays patriotic. "If England and France both play as they have did in the first two matches, we should win it. France always seem to threaten fantastic rugby but somehow fail to deliver it."

Jason Leonard

Then: 114 England caps (most capped England player).
Now: Director of logistics firm Laboursite

Jason Leonard

Jason Leonard

It's difficult to imagine, but every time a prop packs down in an international rugby scrum, 2000 lb of pressure is exerted on his neck. Given that there are at least 20 scrums in a match, just getting off the pitch without the help of paramedics should be hailed as a triumph. England prop Jason Leonard did it 114 times.

Leonard is one of the great players. He has played in two World Cup finals (including 2003), was an integral part of four Grand Slam-winning England teams and two British Lions tours, and captained his country 10 times. Almost as much, though, it's the man himself - the team-playing, unpretentious east Londoner - that stands out.

Of our four star rugby players, Leonard is the most involved in construction and relishes the industry's teamwork and banter. "I was a chippy by trade and used to run jobs for people, then I went into demolition," he recalls. "After that someone was daft enough to offer me a job playing rugby, so I was in a great position because my hobby became my job."

Nowadays, Leonard is director of multi-faceted logistics firm Laboursite, which supplies everything from temporary electricity to waste management. He sees plenty of similarities between his two careers. "I love the construction industry. I love the people. It's very much like rugby because of the camaraderie. When you come into work, you want to work hard but you also want to have some craic.

"There's a team framework," he continues.

"Together you rely on each other. It all has to run smoothly and the communication has to be there."

His enthusiasm for the industry is infectious. "It really disappoints me when you hear teachers say, when you finish school you want to be an accountant or a bank manager. They pooh-pooh construction. They say you might have to work outside in the rain. But if you look at all the industries, construction is up with the best."

With his bulldog spirit, national hero profile and considerable charm, Leonard could be a great thing for construction. Next head of the Strategic Forum, perhaps …?

And his prediction for Sunday's game? "England will find it tough and that stadium hasn't been a happy hunting ground for us but England can do it. It depends on what French team turns up on the day."

Gareth Edwards

Then: 53 caps for Wales. Voted the greatest player ever in a 2003 international poll of players.
Now: Consultant for specialist firm Euroclad

Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards

Anyone who knows anything about rugby should know this passage by heart. Over to commentator Cliff Morgan: "Kirkpatrick to Williams. This is great stuff. Phil Bennett covering, chased by Alastair Scown … Brilliant! Oh, that's brilliant! … John Williams, Pullin, John Dawes … Great dummy! David. Tom David, the half-way line … brilliant by Quinnell … This is Gareth Edwards!

A dramatic start! What a score!"

Such is the cherished account of the Greatest Try Ever Scored, achieved by the Barbarians in their epic encounter with the All Blacks in 1973. The man who scored said try is now sitting in a hospitality box overlooking the Twickenham pitch.

Gareth Edwards is disarmingly pleasant - quite an achievement, as the accolades heaped on him would have turned a lesser person into an egomaniac. Maybe having to hold down a full-time job, like everybody else in the old days of amateur rugby, kept him down to earth. He worked for an engineering company but, after retiring as one of the best players ever seen in rugby-mad Wales, he was not short of offers.

Edwards is on the board of a number of companies but he has not forgotten construction, chiefly because his best friend Nick Williams is group chairman of Euroclad, the South Wales specialist contractor. Edwards now does business development for the company on a consultancy basis.

"I actually played with Nick in the same Welsh boys' team 40 years ago," Edwards recalls. "We went to Millfield school and to college together because we were going to become PE teachers. Except Nick is a very talented businessman and we went our separate ways, but we stayed in touch - I was his best man and he was mine."

He insists there are strong parallels between the boardroom and the rugby pitch. "The strength of any company is the team," he says. "It's about contributions from all different levels. Look at the four people here. You need the ball-getters and the ball-users.

"As for that try, it exemplifies the kind of teamwork I'm talking about. I may get the kudos for having scored it, but it typifies the involvement of the team."

And the prediction for Sunday's game from our most objective expert? "England will have it all to do in Paris. I think France will just about do it."

Andy Deacon

Then: Powergen Cup winner with Gloucester.
Now: Business development manager of contractor Yorke Construction

Andy Deacon

Andy Deacon

Andy Deacon almost went into construction before he embarked on the rugby career that would make him a hero with Gloucester's faithful fans. The tight-head prop, who began playing at Gloucester in 1988, trained as a welder - but didn't like it. Instead, he lived out the tough, less-than-romantic dream of rugby's amateur era: 10 years doing shifts in a Whitbread brewery while building his career on the pitch.

But all that changed when the game went professional in 1995 and the stalwart could focus on his true calling. "I was very lucky to play professional rugby for eight years, and play both in the amateur and professional eras. I was really lucky to get paid for doing something I loved."

Deacon racked up more than 250 appearances for the club before he retired in 2004. He has no doubt of his career high-point. "It was definitely the Powergen Cup final," he says, remembering the momentous day in 2003 when, at the age of 38, he lifted the trophy after a heroic second-half comeback against Northampton.

Deacon's a man with frightening drive and he's bringing it back to the industry, having joined local contractor Yorke Construction as business development manager last year. For him, negotiating hard over contracts is a logical progression from scrumming down with the world's best front rows.

"If you play rugby, you are always wary of your opposition. More and more nowadays you'll study the team very closely and find exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are and how to play them," he says.

"With business it's pretty similar - you have to do your homework on the client, so that when you speak to people you know the best approach."

His aim now is to take Yorke, which has a traditional presence in Gloucester-based public sector work, into the wider world. Big commercial schemes are on their way. "We've just completed a £700,000 residential scheme in Stratford upon Avon and there are lots of tenders coming through. It's a very exciting time."

His iconic profile will give him considerable force. "Within Gloucester, rugby is a major thing so my job is to act as a figurehead. I reckon 70% to 80% of the people we speak to are somehow involved with the club, as fans or otherwise."

His tip for France vs England? "England, of course."