Reigning champions Wales will go into this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship as favourites - but coach Warren Gatland is not deterred by the tag.
Wales fell away in 2006 when they last defended the Six Nations crown, failing to back up their stunning achievement of the previous campaign.
In under three weeks’ time they will set off in pursuit of achieving back-to-back Grand Slams, something that even eluded great Welsh teams during their 1970s golden era.
Gatland said: “We will accept the challenge of being favourites - it is a new experience for a lot of coaches, as well as players.
“But hopefully, it will be something heaped on us more regularly and something we learn to handle, because our ambition is to improve and become one of the top four or five teams in the world.”
Wales open their Six Nations campaign against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 8, and Gatland added: “We have to make sure we are mentally right.
“We will have different pressures on us, perhaps a fear of failure, and the expectation is on us to go out there and perform.
“It will be very much like last year - win the first game and create momentum for success; lose that first game, and we come home to England and then away to France, and it could be a completely different story.”
Gatland has named a 28-man squad for the tournament, with Sale Sharks scrum-half Dwayne Peel the surprise omission.
Peel, capped 64 times and a 2005 Test Lion in New Zealand, misses out behind rival number nines Gareth Cooper and Mike Phillips.
He has started less than half of Sale Sharks’ games this season after joining them from the Scarlets, finding himself in a selection rotation system alongside England international Richard Wigglesworth.
Wales attack coach Rob Howley said: “It is not all about the amount of rugby, it is the quality as well.
“I think Dwayne has been struggling with his consistency because he hasn’t been playing.
“Sale will see Dwayne in training on a day-to-day basis, so they are making decisions based on, presumably, what they see.
“I don’t really want to get mixed up in the selection at Sale. It is their decision. I am sure Dwayne will go away and work extremely hard.
“He needs to get on that field as often as possible to strut his stuff and show us that Dwayne Peel is back to the old Dwayne Peel.”
Gatland has trimmed his squad from the one required for last November’s autumn Test series, which Wales completed by beating Australia to post a much-needed European success against Tri-Nations opposition.
Peel is joined by fellow casualties, Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard, full-back Morgan Stoddart, fly-half Dan Biggar, scrum-half Martin Roberts and prop Eifion Roberts.
Ospreys lock Ian Evans, meanwhile, is sidelined through injury for the rest of this season, so there is a call-up for 22-year-old Cardiff Blues prospect Bradley Davies, while prop Duncan Jones is another injury absentee.