Ireland winger Tommy Bowe believes Declan Kidney's men are "looking good" as they look to repeat their historic Grand Slam of 2009 in the upcoming RBS 6 Nations.
Ireland endured an inconsistent 2010 as defeats to France and Scotland stymied their Six Nations title defence before they were beaten by New Zealand and Australia on their summer tour.
Their November campaign began with a disappointing defeat to South Africa but they rounded the month off with a much-improved display against the All Blacks and a record win over Argentina.
And Ospreys back Bowe, 26, believes they are moving in the right direction.
He told Sky Sports News: "We are looking good. We finished November quite well, we lost to New Zealand but we showed we could play a bit of rugby, and we had a good win against Argentina. It's now important that we get off to a good start against Italy.
"We have a few new faces in the squad but two years ago we won the Grand Slam so the pressure is on and there is an expectation level there.
"We have had a few injuries but until those players come back it will be exciting for the guys that come in."
Ireland open their campaign against Italy in Rome on February 5 having never lost a Six Nations game against the Azzurri.
But Bowe, who as 36 caps to his name, has warned that Nick Mallett's side will be more dangerous than ever thanks to the inclusion of Treviso and Aironi in the Magners League this season.
He said: "Obviously to win a Grand Slam you need to win all your games and we will need to start well. But Italy will be tough to beat and their side have done well in the Magners League.
"Treviso have a great home record and those players will be involved in their squad so it will be a difficult place to go."
While Bowe was understandably not prepared to look beyond his own side as potential winners of the tournament, he expects England and France to be the sides to watch, even though Martin Johnson's side will be without captain Lewis Moody, Courtney Lawes and Tom Croft at the start of the competition.
"It's going to be tough without Lewis as he is one of their senior men and top players," added Bowe.
"But the standard in England means it will give players the chance to come through and put their hands up with the World Cup coming up.
"France will be difficult but we have England and them at home this year. They will be tough to beat but it's a very open competition."
While Bowe has high hopes for his national side, he admits he is still reeling from being part of the Ospreys side eliminated from the Heineken Cup last weekend following defeat at London Irish.
"It was very disappointing," he said. "Last weekend was our first really bad performance but you can't take anything away from London Irish, they had lost 10 games in a row and they played like their lives depended on it.
"Every mistake we made their spirits lifted.
"For a side like the Ospreys, with such high expectations of ourselves and from the Welsh public, it's disappointing.
"We were in a difficult group, if you look it's the first time Munster have been knocked out in the pool stages in 13 years.
"It's frustrating for the players but we now have to focus on the Magners League."