Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby admitted the return to full fitness of Tadgh Furlong and Iain Henderson has thrown up a "selection headache" as he heaped praise on the contribution of Andrew Porter and James Ryan in the Lions pair's absence.
Joe Schmidt has a clean bill of health ahead of Saturday's crunch Six Nations clash with Scotland, as Ireland look to set up a shot at the Grand Slam at Twickenham on St Patrick's Day.
Furlong and Henderson missed the Aviva Stadium defeat of the Welsh last time out, but their deputies shone, and Easterby said they're rise highlights an overall improvement in the panel's strength in depth.
"We have to keep players on a tight leash because they are desperate; those who didn't get the opportunity to play against Wales will be desperate to come back in," he said.
"Guys that did play have the ownership of that shirt and I think it's a great place to be. When losing those players the guys that came in didn't drop the standard.
"It causes us a selection headache and you have to applaud Andrew Porter's performance in the Italian game and then starting the Welsh game.
"And it is the same in the second-row with James Ryan. A couple of youngsters have come in and really done a job for us.
"Any side would be happy to have (Furlong and Henderson) come back into selection. They are quality players and have proved that over the years, especially in the summer with the Lions.
"It has created massive competition within the group. We're building real quality depth."
Thirteen months ago Scotland caught Ireland cold at Murrayfield, turning the visitors over in the championship opener after a devastating first-half display.
Their superb performance in victory against England ten days ago means Gregor Townsend's men are not exactly coming to Dublin under the radar. Ireland know what to expect.
"Scotland's first-class performance against the English, it sparked everybody up," added Easterby
"We were expecting and we got a really tough encounter against Wales. The down week was a good week for us to rest a few bodies... but certainly the intensity has risen this week with that's coming up.
"They, like us, have started to create some depth in their group. We're starting to see a very good Scottish team now perform week in, week out.
"They're in a really good place as a squad."