Ireland winger Tommy Bowe believes Declan Kidney's men are "looking good" as they look to repeat their historic Grand Slam of 2009 in the upcoming RBS 6 Nations.
Ireland endured an inconsistent 2010 as defeats to France and Scotland stymied their Six Nations title defence before they were beaten by New Zealand and Australia on their summer tour. However they rounded their November campaign off with a much-improved display against the All Blacks and a record win over Argentina.
Bowe told Sky Sports News: "We are looking good. We finished November quite well, we lost to New Zealand but we showed we could play a bit of rugby, and we had a good win against Argentina. It's now important that we get off to a good start against Italy."
He added: "We have a few new faces in the squad but two years ago we won the Grand Slam so the pressure is on and there is an expectation level there.
"We have had a few injuries but until those players come back it will be exciting for the guys that come in."
Ireland open their campaign against Italy in Rome on February 5 having never lost a Six Nations game against the Azzurri.
But Bowe, who as 36 caps to his name, has warned that Nick Mallett's side will be more dangerous than ever thanks to the inclusion of Treviso and Aironi in the Magners League this season.
He said: "Obviously to win a Grand Slam you need to win all your games and we will need to start well. But Italy will be tough to beat and their side have done well in the Magners League.
"Treviso have a great home record and those players will be involved in their squad so it will be a difficult place to go."