Last year's Grand Slam heroes, Ireland, will look to use the Six Nations to ease their Rugby World Cup heartache, although they have been done few favours by the fixture list.
October's defeat to New Zealand means they face another four years of taunts regarding their perennial inability to make it past the last eight of the global showpiece.
However, Johnny Sexton's retirement and the injury to Mack Hansen aside, the Irish have been left relatively unscathed and head into the Six Nations with a fairly settled squad.
Andy Farrell's side begin the tournament against France in Marseille and, with a trip to Twickenham for their penultimate game, their upcoming campaign could be a case of taking things one game at a time as they look to rebuild confidence.
Ryan Baird, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Ronan Kelleher, Jeremy Loughman, Joe McCarthy, Peter O'Mahony (c), Tom O'Toole, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Dan Sheehan, Tom Stewart, Nick Timoney, Josh van der Flier.
Bundee Aki, Harry Byrne, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Ciaran Frawley, Jamison Gibson-Park, Robbie Henshaw, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, James Lowe, Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray, Calvin Nash, Garry Ringrose, Jacob Stockdale.
Farrell leads Ireland into a fifth Six Nations campaign and will be looking to match last year's achievement by masterminding a second Grand Slam in charge.
The 48-year-old took over a strong side in 2020 and almost made them bulletproof, with the spirited manner of their quarter-final defeat to New Zealand ensuring few questions were posed about his future.
The respect he commands made him the obvious candidate to lead next year's British & Irish Lions tour to Australia before his appointment and his calm demeanour means Irish fans need not worry that he will be distracted by ifs, buts and maybes regarding his duties in 18 months time.
Farrell is wise enough to know that his team's opening game at the Stade Velodrome could define their campaign but, even with a defeat, his balanced nature means little will change in how he approaches the remainder of the tournament.
The 'rugby player's rugby player', Peter O'Mahony's drive to set standards and never take a backward step ensures he demands universal admiration.
O'Mahony captained the Lions in their first Test defeat to New Zealand in 2017, only to be dropped for the second match, but the way he rebuilt his career has epitomised his courage and skill.
At 34, he may not make the next World Cup, but the Munster skipper remains one of the greatest line-out forwards on the planet, is brilliant at the breakdown and even seems to have found an extra yard of pace over the last couple of years.
Just as steely and competitive as Sexton, he will prove a fine leader as Farrell ponders who will take the team forward heading into the next World Cup in 2027.
Arguably the best hooker in the world, Dan Sheehan tackles hard, carries harder, scrummages well and rescued his country's ailing line-out after recovering from the foot injury that hampered the opening part of his country's campaign in France.
A shoo-in to tour Australia with the Lions, his current trajectory hints that he could even captain the side if he finds himself in a leadership role at Leinster in the next 18 months.
Capable of playing across the back-row, Caelan Doris is happiest at number eight and is another Irishman tipped to wear his favourite shirt for the Lions Down Under.
The Leinster star ruled himself out of the Ireland captaincy, but his handling and impact on both sides of the ball mean few would have questioned his appointment had he not publicly spoken of his desire not to lead the team.
Just 25 but already rivalling France's Gregory Aldritt and New Zealand's Ardie Savea as the premier number eight in world rugby, his back-row combination with O'Mahony and Josh van der Flier could make up for some of his team's shortcomings elsewhere.
In a situation similar to David Moyes replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Jack Crowley looks to have been made the 'Chosen One' to take over from Sexton.
The Munster fly-half deputised at the World Cup and maybe, just maybe, could have had an impact if Farrell had trusted him to replace a fatigued Sexton in the closing stages against the All Blacks.
With Ross Byrne injured, Crowley has a free run at securing the number 10 shirt ahead of Byrne's brother Harry and another Leinster man in Ciaran Frawley.
After guiding Munster to URC glory last season, Crowley has proved he has the credentials to cut it at the top level and looks to be Ireland's best hope of replacing their former skipper.
Ireland's fixtures are not kind. France also have a point to prove after their own World Cup heartache, while England are tipped to go well, and Steve Borthwick will be targeting their meeting at Twickenham as a chance for his players to make a statement.
Home games against Italy, Wales and Scotland will be no walkovers, but are all winnable.
Farrell will be confident that his team can win three of their matches, but whether they can secure the fourth victory needed to put them in contention for the Championship remains unclear.
Ireland are the defending champions, having claimed their third Six Nations Grand Slam in 2023.
That success also helped them move on to seven Triple Crowns, while they have not been handed the Wooden Spoon since the competition was expanded from the Five Nations in 2000.
|Won Grand Slam
|Won Triple Crown
|Won Grand Slam
Ireland were hit by a hammer blow against New Zealand. They were 9.99/10 that night in Saint-Denis - it was just that the All Blacks were 10/10.
That disappointment has had enough time to turn into determination and, while they have been partially written off due to the retirement of Sexton and Hansen's injury, the other 13 starters on that night in Saint-Denis have been retained.
Their opening game against France is huge and it is clear why they are the 11/8 underdogs, having not won away against Les Bleus since 2018.
With a trip to Twickenham also on the agenda, they are arguably on an ‘off' year for potential glory but home games against Wales and Scotland mean they will retain hope of defending the Triple Crown, while they will expect to take five points from Italy's visit to Dublin.