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.
Talismanic captain Brian O'Driscoll wants his Ireland side to find "a level of consistency" during the upcoming RBS 6 Nations Championship.
Amid much hype, Ireland got off to a solid start in last year's campaign, beating Italy (28-17) and Scotland (40-13) away, and then accounting for England at Lansdowne Road by matching 2004's famous 19-13 score line from Twickenham.
Could O'Driscoll lead Ireland to their first Championship title since 1985? Unfortunately the answer was a no in 2005. Ireland's performance levels then waned in March as defeats followed at home to France and finally, in the cauldron of Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
The French picked up a 26-17 win at Lansdowne, becoming the first side to beat Eddie O'Sullivan's men in a 6 Nations game in Dublin since Clive Woodward's 2003 England outfit. Then the Welsh Dragons, breathing new fire under Mike Ruddock, proved too strong on the final weekend, winning 32-20 in Cardiff to secure the Triple Crown, the 6 Nations title and the Grand Slam.
Following a Lions tour to forget in more ways than one, O'Driscoll, fully fit after his recovery from a dislocated right shoulder, has hit a purple patch of form for Leinster. Three tries in four starts for the star centre, who turned 27 last weekend, bodes well for the 6 Nations.
O'Driscoll said at Wednesday's RBS 6 Nations Launch in London: "I'm fresh after the break - I'm probably back to what I was three years or four years ago. I tried to take the positives out of what was obviously a negative situation (with the injury).
"I think the break has freshened me up. I hadn't had a serious injury and so I had played a hell of a lot of rugby without a break. Now I've got the opportunity to step up again. It has made me hungry more than anything else.
"Being realistic, I have only played four games in the last seven months. I mustn't get ahead of myself. I just have to do the simple things well."
On a team level, O'Driscoll is looking for Ireland to get back to their consistent best.
"This time last year we were being hyped up. Nobody gave Wales a chance and look what happened? But winning it again is a big ask," the Dubliner conceded.
"We're looking for a level of consistency. We have set our standards really high, on the pitch and on the training field."