'Plucky' has been the word traditionally used to describe Ireland performances - and could usually be found alongside 'losers'.
But Irish rugby has undergone a renaissance over the past three years which has swept the nation's dream of celebrating their first Grand Slam since 1948 out of the realms of fantasy.
They have an astute and forward-thinking coach in Eddie O'Sullivan, one of the game's most successful Test captains in Brian O'Driscoll and a squad which could yet prove to be their golden generation.
Were Sir Clive Woodward to pick his British Lions squad now, England might find their usual dominance of representation under serious threat by O'Sullivan's Triple Crown holders.
Results since 2002 have included victories over heavyweights England, France, Australia and South Africa, two RBS 6 Nations runners-ups spots in successive years and a clean sweep of scalps from the Autumn internationals.
Such achievements have ignited Irish hopes of claiming championship glory and, according to supremely gifted back Geordan Murphy, they have instilled the team with the belief they can usurp Anglo-French control of the tournament.
"Morale has always been good in the Ireland squad. The team spirit in the camp is excellent and that's something we've usually managed to get right. The guys know when to have fun and when to work," he said.
"But now our confidence is higher. We have the belief that we can beat the best teams in the world - you could see that in the Autumn internationals. The games against South Africa and Argentina were very close but we came out on top."
Fans, who must cast their minds back 20 years for the last time last Ireland won the Six Nations title, could be forgiven for talking up their side's chances this season given the kind fixture list.
England and France should be the hardest teams to beat but both must travel to Lansdowne Road where O'Sullivan's men have excelled since their 42-6 thrashing by Woodward's Grand Slam winners nearly two years ago.
Murphy, who started at full-back against England that day, agrees that a first-place finish is beckoning but is cautious not to overstate the importance of the two Dublin showdowns.
"We have as good a chance as any side of winning the Six Nations this year. We have a fantastic squad which has been built-up over the years. I think we've got everything right at the moment," said the Leicester Tiger.
"We have some quality forwards and backs and we are confident. But there are some very good teams out there. The Welsh did well in the Autumn and the Scots pushed Australia in their matches, while England and France are always strong.
"Italy in Rome is a very dangerous opening match for us - they have the potential to cause a big upset as everyone knows so we'll have to be careful. It's a level playing field. It should be an interesting championship.
"Obviously it's great to have England and France at home, but that's only important if we win the other games. There won't be a lot of point beating England and France and then losing somewhere else."
After losing their Under-20s Six Nations crown to England Under-20s in a thrilling final round, France Under-20s lock Tristan Labouteley insists his side will be out for revenge at this year's Junior World Championship.