Ronan O'Gara has said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt made the right call in resisting the temptation to throw Garry Ringrose into the Test arena too soon and cited the premature blooding of Paddy Jackson as a lesson that young players must be handled with care.
Centre Ringrose has caught the eye with Leinster this season, and was called into Ireland's first training camp of the year at the start of the month.
However, the 20-year-old failed to make Schmidt's 35-man cut as Ireland hunt a third Six Nations title on the bounce, and O'Gara believes it's the right call.
“It’s not a developing squad, it’s a real Test match with essentially ten days’ preparation," he told RTÉ 2fm's Game On.
"If Joe doesn't get results everyone will starting shouting at him to get his act together, so I think the proven two are Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne.
"There’s absolutely no doubt that Ringrose has a lot to offer. The other counterargument is how is he going to develop if he doesn't get game time, but you can be sure he will get his opportunity."
"In the case of Paddy Jackson, maybe he got put into the Test arena a little too soon and the damage was done to him."
In 2013, Declan Kidney opted for rookie Jackson ahead of O'Gara for the Six Nations collision in Scotland. It was a desperately tough baptism of fire as the visitors slumped to a dour 12-8 defeat and O'Gara says the step up just came too quickly for the Ulster man.
"In the case of Paddy Jackson, maybe he got put into the Test arena a little too soon and the damage was done to him. Confidence is the one thing that can’t be shot in a young player.
"The standard of some of the European games, even this year, is a long way off what’s going to happen in a Six Nations game. So speaking about form, a lot of that will come back to what people have done in an Irish jersey as well. I don't think you can ever forget that form, because that’s form at the top level.
“Playing a club game is different because normally you have four or five players minimum who wouldn't be at the level of a Test game, which gives you an extra second on the ball, the hits wouldn’t be as hard, you’ve longer to make decisions. Everything happens a little bit quicker at the top level."
One new face who could get the chance to stamp his quality on the tournament is Munster's back row forward CJ Stander.
The South African-born 25-year-old has grown in stature this campaign, and O'Gara believes he has the strengths to impact games off the bench, and help Ireland to "do something great again".
“It’ll be interesting to see how CJ goes in the A v B games that happen in Irish camp in the week before the Wales game," O'Gara added.
"There’s no doubt he’ll be in the 23 because I think he’s a serious option off the bench. Management sometimes prefer to finish with a stronger team than start with their strongest team which is something I learned from [Dublin manager] Jim Gavin.
“I think players have underperformed. I don’t think there’s this great power surge towards England and France all of a sudden.
"England still have the same players there’s just been massive hype behind them because they are England. The French system is nowhere near as oiled as it should be, so I think there’s a massive opportunity for Ireland to do something great again this year.”