Any judgement of Andy Farrell's first year had to come with a list of caveats. Now, the way has been cleared for Ireland to play to their potential.
If they do, they have a squad capable of winning this Six Nations.
They've had their bedding-in period under the new coach, experienced the teething problems that inevitably come during a regime's first year and were exacerbated when the season was put into cold storage during a global pandemic.
Apart from the injured Jacob Stockdale, Joey Carbery and Dan Leavy - who is still working his way back - Farrell has everyone fit and available.
Match fitness may be an issue. Tadhg Furlong hasn't played in 11 months, James Lowe and Iain Henderson have been out since November and the Ulster contingent come into the tournament on the back of three weekends off.
In 2020, Ireland won all their home games against the PRO14 nations and Georgia but struggled away from home against England twice and France once.
The autumn defeats in London and Paris showed the limitations of the team at that time, but Farrell will be quietly confident that gap can be bridged in Dublin this spring.
Farrell wants a competitive squad and, at the outset of this tournament, he has genuine options in almost every position.
He will derive that confidence from the prospect of the bench making an impact in all three front-row positions, with serious options to cover his first-choice back-five of the scrum.
Garry Ringrose's fitness opens up the attacking possibilities in the backline and, even without Stockdale, there are quality back-three players competing for places.
At scrum-half, Conor Murray is fit and in form, Jamison Gibson-Park offers something different and Craig Casey will bring his high-energy style to the set-up.
The fact that John Cooney, Luke McGrath, Kieran Marmion and Caolin Blade are left disappointed shows the depth available to the head coach.
His biggest headache remains at out-half, where he is no closer to having competition for places than he was when he came into the job.
As is almost traditional at this stage, Johnny Sexton comes into the tournament under an injury cloud. That the hamstring of a 35-year-old is so important to the national cause is an obvious red flag.
Billy Burns showed signs that he could step into the breach in the autumn, while Ross Byrne has so far been unable to replicate his confident Leinster showings when playing with Ireland.
Carbery's 13-month absence means his return would be more of a bonus than something Farrell can rely on, while he clearly doesn't fancy Jack Carty despite his impressive Christmas.
If he can stay fit, Sexton will win his 100th cap against England on March 20 and potentially could lift the Six Nations trophy that day, too.
The only man in the squad who has already hit the 100-cap mark is Cian Healy and, at 33, there are signs that the venerable loosehead is not the player he once was.
Farrell has only included one other loosehead in the 32-year-old Dave Kilcoyne, who is himself just back from injury. Ed Byrne, Finlay Bealham and Eric O'Sullivan all got a chance before Christmas, but none of them did enough to get back in.
With Jack McGrath no longer in the picture, there are real concerns about the long-term health of the position and Furlong's return may eventually see Andrew Porter shift his considerable size across the scrum.
Right now, Healy and Kilcoyne should be able to get Ireland through, with Byrne likely to be the next in line if needs be.
And, while the inclusion of Casey and tighthead prop Tom O'Toole is a nod to the future, there is a real sense that Farrell wants to inject a winning mentality into his team as they enter year two of his time in charge.
New assistant Paul O'Connell has plenty to work with when it comes to second-row talent. Fixing the struggling lineout is a priority. Finding the correct balance in the back-row is another challenge, with Rhys Ruddock ready to come in and add his experience, leadership and power as he challenges CJ Stander for the No 6 shirt.
Getting the right blend is Farrell's challenge but, after a tough first year and a depleted squad in the autumn, he can't claim he doesn't have the options in most positions.
The tools are there to mount a challenge, but that's just the first part of the equation.