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.
With two former Munster coaches on board in head coach Declan Kidney and backs coach Alan Gaffney, there is a familiar edge to proceedings for second row Paul O'Connell.
But there are a number of new voices too and O'Connell has liked what he has seen so far from new forwards coach Gert Smal, who assisted Jake White in steering his native South Africa to Rugby World Cup glory last year.
"He seems to be a very good coach, a very enthusiastic guy and very knowledgeable," O'Connell said, when asked of his impressions of Smal.
"He's been great. I suppose the more new ideas guys get the better. He's different to Laurie (Fisher) who we have now with Munster and Axel (Anthony Foley), and Niallo (Niall O'Donovan) we've have before (with Ireland).
"It's good to get a cross section of ideas and a different way of doing things. Often with coaches that come in...it confirms that what you've been doing all along has been right, it kinda backs that up.
"It's been good, it's a different way of doing things and it's been really good for us."
Ireland will begin their November run of games against Canada on Saturday week, in the cauldron of the new Thomond Park.
Undoubtedly though, the Croke Park clash with New Zealand on November 15 is the game that is whetting the appetites of the media and fans alike.
For the players, all thoughts of chasing the country's first ever win over the All Blacks will be parked until after the Thomond opener.
Still, O'Connell agreed that the prospect of playing New Zealand at home is an exciting one.
"Any time you play the All Blacks, you look forward to it," he explained.
"It's a chance to create a bit of history but I suppose the reason history is against us is that they're a great side.
"It's going to be a tough day but it is a great chance for us, no doubt about it."