Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy has hailed the return of centre Gordon D'Arcy to the team but warns opponents looking to target last year's RBS 6 Nations player of the tournament there is plenty more talent to contend with.
Ireland's chances of success in this year's championship have been helped by the lack of injuries to their vaunted threequarters, with coach Eddie O'Sullivan beginning preparation for Sunday's RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy with a full complement to select from.
Of crucial importance is the return to fitness of D'Arcy, the little Leinster midfielder whose attacking abilities lit up last season's tournament.
As one of the Irish side's other most dangerous strike runners, 26-year-old Murphy is at ease turning his thoughts to the prospect of lining-up alongside D'Arcy once again.
"Gordon had a fantastic championship last year but then had a tough time with injury which saw him miss out in the summer and during November," he said.
"Potentially he could get more attention this time around because people know more about him. But the joy of our backline is that if you start watching one player too much it will make space for the likes of Brian O'Driscoll and Denis Hickie.
"Guys like that are itching to get a bit of space so watching D'Arcy too closely could prove very dangerous."
If that space emerges, Murphy will also be hoping to take full advantage as Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward begins to form a clearer picture of who will be included in his squad.
But after missing the 2003 World Cup with the broken leg that he suffered in a warm-up match for the tournament, Murphy - a possible Test Lion if firing on all cylinders - is keen not to gaze too far into the future.
"It's more important to play and try to string some form together than worry about the Lions at this stage - the tour is a long way off," he said.
"I know from personal experience after getting injured on the verge of making it to the World Cup that a lot can change in a short space of time. I'll see what happens in the Six Nations and then think about the Lions."
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