RORY BEST (BANBRIDGE/ULSTER)
A proficient lineout operator who packs a punch in the loose, RORY BEST has come a long way since making his Test debut against New Zealand three years ago.
Now captain of Ulster, the 26-year-old muscled his way into the Irish team for the 2006 wins over South Africa and Australia and was ever-present during the 2007 Triple Crown-winning campaign.
He transferred his provincial form onto the international stage, with tries against the Pacific Islanders and Wales and some power-packed performances.
With Jerry Flannery and Bernard Jackman pressing him for the number 2 jersey, he started twice during the last Rugby World Cup and three times in the 2008 Six Nations, regaining the shirt again for the June clash with Australia.
JOHN HAYES (BRUFF/MUNSTER)
JOHN HAYES has been an almost constant presence in the Ireland pack since his first cap against Scotland in February 2000.
Known affectionately as 'The Bull', he was a latecomer to the game - he first lined out as a flanker for local club Bruff at the age of 18, but spells with Shannon and Invercargill in New Zealand helped mould him into a prop.
The Limerick native, who has won two Heineken Cups with Munster, came to the fore when starting all ten of Ireland's internationals in the Triple Crown-winning year of 2004.
A rare try against Scotland followed and Lions Test recognition in New Zealand in 2005, as well as two more Triples Crowns and those European successes with Munster.
A veritable rock in the Irish scrum and lineout, the soft-spoken tighthead shows no signs of wilting - he played in all 13 of Ireland's Tests during last season.
Hayes beat Phil Orr's long-standing record (58 caps) as Ireland's most-capped prop during the 2006 Six Nations.
RYAN CALDWELL (DUNGANNON/ULSTER)
An athletic and ground-guzzling second row, RYAN CALDWELL made his Ireland 'A' bow during the 2007 Churchill Cup and is on the cusp of a senior cap.
A member of the IRFU's High Performance Select Group, he quickly emerged as one of Ulster's first choice locks despite the presence of internationals Justin Harrison and Carlo Del Fava in the squad.
Caldwell is a former Ulster Schools Cup-winning captain with RBAI and joined the Ulster set-up on a development contract in 2003.
With two Under-21 World Championships and a number of energetic run-outs for Ulster and Ireland 'A' under his belt, he signed a new two-year deal with Ulster in January and is certainly a player to watch out for.
ALAN QUINLAN (SHANNON/MUNSTER)
Combative and regarded as one of the hardest opponents in a forwards battle, ALAN QUINLAN seems to be getting better with age as he spearheads Munster's European assaults.
The Tipperary man has fought off some serious injuries in his time, most notably when he recovered from a cruciate knee ligament injury in 2005/06 to help Munster lift the Heineken Cup for the first time.
He came back into the international reckoning last year with a start against Argentina and though he was selected in the 2007 Rugby World Cup squad, he failed to make the matchday squads.
Quinlan, a product of Clanwilliam RFC, earned representative honours with the Ireland Youths and 'A' teams. He made his senior debut at the 1999 World Cup as a replacement against Romania.
Now 34, this streetwise campaigner may be in the autumn of his career but he still has an awful lot to offer both province and country.
DAVID WALLACE (GARRYOWEN/MUNSTER)
Some barnstorming displays for Munster helped DAVID WALLACE, a supreme athlete with an array of skills in his armoury, return to the international fold in 2006.
Now, the rugged flanker is an essential part of any Ireland squad - he was ever-present for the 2007 Rugby World Cup and 2008 Six Nations and has averaged two tries in the last two seasons.
Wallace won his first Ireland cap against Argentina in 2000, and was in and out of the team before being ever-present for the 2002 Six Nations.
A Lions tourist in 2001, injury and loss of form saw Wallace play for Ireland only seven times between the summers of 2003 and 2005.
But helped by his high quality run-outs in Munster's two Heineken Cup-winning seasons, he has had a strong grip on the Ireland number 7 jersey ever since.
His brothers Paul and Richard are both former Ireland internationals and Lions tourists. Barring injury, David will become the first in the family to amass 50 caps or more.