It's difficult to make predictions about Ireland's chances in the 2003 RBS Six Nations bearing in mind that it's three or four months since the international side last played, but we have made substantial progress over the last few seasons and I hope that will continue to be the case this year.
Both England and France have fantastic teams, Scotland showed vast improvement during the autumn internationals and, as I've been saying for the last couple of tournaments, Italy have a great chance of winning at least one game. They have been unfortunate at times and I've no doubt their squad will be competitive. Ireland have been getting consistently stronger and I hope our squad can take another step forward in the RBS Six Nations.
It is a benefit to us that we will play England and France at Lansdowne Road, but only if we perform well in our first couple of games. After that we will have an idea of where we are. The first game against Scotland at Murrayfield will be both difficult and important because they've outclassed us in recent matches, and we must be ready for it.
I'm hoping that I will play some part in the latter stages of the tournament after having an operation on my shoulder, and at the moment I'm working hard to build up my fitness. The final game of our RBS Six Nations campaign against England will be an absolute corker and the sort of match you want to be involved in.
The main thing is that we're still in with a shout by that stage because the tournament is all about winning games and performing throughout the competition. It will be a big day against England, but there is a massive amount to concentrate on before then.
England flanker James Haskell insists he will be pushing as hard as possible to be back from a toe injury in time to make his case for a spot in Eddie Jones' side looking to defend their RBS 6 Nations title next year.