Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll has hailed Geordan Murphy as the most skilful player in world rugby.
Murphy has switched from wing to full-back for Sunday's RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy in a move which sees Girvan Dempsey dropped from the Triple Crown holders' line-up.
The Leicester star has the talent to become the championship's main attraction and O'Driscoll is relishing the chance to play alongside him.
He said: ''Geordan is such an exciting talent to play with and he's a huge reason for the excitement generated at training. He does things no one else would dare try. He's such a talented footballer.
''There's a huge element of the unexpected in his game and that's what makes him so enjoyable to watch and enjoyable to play with.
''His skill levels are far higher than anyone else I know in the game - including anyone from the southern hemisphere - and his presence makes me very excited to be a part of Ireland's backline,'' he added.
Although Italy are no longer the soft touch they were in 2000 when Five Nations became Six, they are sure to provide Murphy and co with the chance to showcase their creative skills.
Facing the Azzurri on home soil is no stroll in the park, however, and Ireland will be anxious to avoid the fate of Scotland and Wales who know what it is like to lose in Rome in their championship opener.
O'Driscoll said: ''Italy are a much improved side. They are far more structured and organised - their coach John Kirwan has brought those elements into the team.
''They've learnt from other sides. They've brought in new plays and variations. They are fast becoming a smart team and will be harder and harder to break down.
''The days when the Italians were the Six Nations' whipping boys are well and truly behind us.''