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.
"The gap is closing between the strongest and the weakest players. Across the board the competition in the Irish squad is a lot stronger (since the 2003 World Cup)," he admitted.
"That can only be good, that can only push the side on to hopefully achieve more than we did in the tournament four years ago."
Easterby is in a good frame of mind at present, having just agreed a three-year contract extension with the Scarlets. The 2005 Lion is fully fit and has his mind trained on helping Ireland to their best ever World Cup finish.
Emphasising the Irish squad's current rude health, he added: "The fact we (the Six Nations squad) were given the opportunity to stay at home (from the Argentina tour), rest up and get back into some conditioning before the other guys was great.
"It has given us a great opportunity to be in good shape now. Physically I feel great and I think all the guys do - even the ones that went on the tour to Argentina. They've had a good pre-season, training stepped up last week in Limerick in terms of the intensity of the contact levels and it'll be the same again this week (in Dublin). I'm sure the intensity will be at another level leading up to the Scotland game.
"Everyone is chomping at the bit to train and to show what they can do now that they've got the ball back in their hands. It's great, there's a real enthusiasm in the squad and a few nerves around as well," said Easterby.
Tension will mount before coach Eddie O'Sullivan names his 30-man squad for the World Cup on Sunday, but Easterby knows one thing for certain - whoever gains a seat on the plane to France will share the belief that Ireland can win the tournament.
"There's no doubt we are going to the World Cup believing that we can win it. But we will be the same as probably six or seven other nations.
"We've got a pretty tough group, but we can beat anyone on our day. Obviously, we haven't played a game since the Argentina tour, but everyone is excited about the prospect of going to a World Cup that we are capable of doing very well in."