Wales head coach Warren Gatland admits next season's RBS 6 Nations fixture list is a tougher proposition than the one which presented his side with the 2008 Championship Trophy and tournament clean sweep.
Gatland's second year at the helm of his newly adopted country sees him travel away on three weekends out of five and includes a late night Friday clash with France on their home turf.
And the New Zealander knows if he is to follow his Grand Slam winning debut campaign with a successful title defence the hard work begins with the summer tour of South Africa and the Invesco Perpetual Autumn Series at the Millennium Stadium.
"We have a gruelling trip to the home of the World Champions this summer and further tough games against top Southern Hemisphere opposition to look forward to in the Autumn, before we have any hope of being able to assess our chances of defending the title," said Gatland.
"We'll go into the Championship as the holders and that automatically means other teams will be gunning for us from the outset, but that's a position we will relish being in.
"The fixture list is pretty much the flip side of the one that treated us so well this year, it offers us different challenges with three games on the road.
"But we are given the opportunity to go to both Scotland and Italy where the players will feel they didn't get their performance right in 2007 and we'll have the chance to put that right.
"Travelling to France is always a tough proposition and playing on a Friday night will be interesting, but it won't faze us.
"We will prepare in the same professional way as we do for any other game and we are lucky to have an impressive band of travelling supporters who can help bring a home atmosphere to any away fixture.
"It's impossible to assess what form any of the sides will be in when it comes to competition time and there is plenty of rugby to be played before we get the chance to defend our title.
"Our challenge now is to continue to improve and there is no better way to start that process than against the World Champions this summer."
For Jacques Brunel and Italy the goal for every RBS 6 Nations is to win games, but, in this his fourth and final Championship in charge, the head coach is just as worried about performances as results.
Sam Burgess' first outing wearing the Red Rose was relatively quiet but after helping England Saxons to a 18-9 win over the Irish Wolfhounds head coach Jon Callard has backed the rugby-league convert to be a hit in union.