10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Eddie O'Sullivan's Irish side will line out against South Africa (Saturday, November 11, 5pm), Australia (Sunday, November 19, 4pm) and the Pacific Islands (Sunday, November 26, 2.45pm) over the next three weekends at Lansdowne Road.
Pictured alongside models Una (Pacific Islands), Sarah (Australia) and Roberta (South Africa), the 27-year-old O'Connell relayed that there was a general excitement in the Irish squad at present as the build-up to the 2007 World Cup truly begins on Saturday.
He said: "Eddie has been talking about this (the squad) being the 30 or so players who are in pole position for the World Cup so at this stage everyone's mind is on the World Cup.
"It's the build up now - that's exactly what it is. You have to start putting your form together and start playing as a team, trying to win games and putting together a run. That's what we're trying to do now over the next three weeks."
Due to injury, O'Connell and Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll both missed last November's internationals against New Zealand, Australia and Romania, and the Munster lock reckons having a full squad this time around and home advantage sets Ireland up well for a shot at two of the Southern Hemisphere's big hitters.
"To be playing with a full squad is very important for us," he added. "We don't have the depth that maybe other countries have but with a full squad we should do quite well. Not being away from home at the end of a long year, it's a massive difference playing at Lansdowne Road. It's a big boost for us."
**All photos by Brendan Moran of Sportsfile**