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.
Following two runners-up placings in the last two years, there is sure to be much focus on O'Sullivan's charges throughout the eight-week long tournament.
France coach Bernard Laporte has already begun the mind games, talking up the chances of a first Irish title since 1985.
"I think this is the most open championship for a while because Ireland are very good. Wales are on the up and of course you have us and the English," said the bespeckled one.
"Ireland have been playing well for the last five years and their provinces have made good progress in the Heineken Cup through Leinster and Munster.
"They also won at Twickenham last year with a very good performance. It's never easy to play against Ireland," he added.
Having tasted 2004 Triple Crown glory against Scotland, robbed England of their 22-match unbeaten streak at Twickenham, and claimed only their second win over South Africa in 39 years in a winning Autumn test series, O'Driscoll, who turned 26 last week, knows he side have stepped up a gear in the last twelve months.
"Our results in the November tests have pushed us forward and we've got to learn to accept that status if we want to be taken seriously by the superpowers," he commented.
"It's not quite a case of 'Now or Never,' but if you're feeling good and confident, then it's important you don't sit back and say that you'll give it a crack in twelve months' time. Why not now?
"We're smart enough and experienced enough not to lose the run on ourselves. That win in Twickenham last season was a mental hurdle that we stepped over. It wasn't the only factor in our being able to take a place at the top table because we've had other big wins too," added the Irish captain.
With all bar two - Ulster duo David Humphreys and Kevin Maggs - of his initial 25-man squad for Ireland's tournament opener against Italy on Sunday, February 6th, in action in either the Celtic League or Zurich Premiership this weekend, 46-year-old O'Sullivan faces a nail-biting few days.
Back rows Simon Easterby and Anthony Foley are two such players being closely watched.
"Simon has a hamstring problem but he'll be playing this weekend and we'll see how he gets on. Anthony hasn't trained this week because of a knock and he'll also be closely monitored this weekend," said O'Sullivan.
The Cork man's most difficult decision for his team selection next Wednesday, may lie in the backline with a currently fully-fit contingent of 11 vying for the seven starting berths.
O'Sullivan commented: "It will be tough to leave one of the guys out. I have a pretty close idea of who I want to be in the backline but I won't be making any final decisions until I'm sure everyone is ready to go.
"It's the most difficult part of the job telling a player he's no longer in the team. It's horrendous leaving someone out of the team, especially if they haven't done anything wrong," he added.
"It's important to handle the situation properly. You have to be up-front, direct with people and tell them why you're doing it. You have to explain the logic - they never agree with you but they respect it if you've been straight with them."