The latest Six Nations campaign has crept up on us, and Cardiff will be the venue as Ireland try and pick up where they left off in the autumn internationals.

The Welsh approach will be difficult to analyse, considering Warren Gatland is back in the fold as their head coach, this time with a different coaching staff.

The New Zealander will know how to turn things around quickly for Wales, but he's also under desperate pressure to achieve that in a short space of time.

That will be outside noise for Andy Farrell and his coaching team, where the focus will be primarily on themselves in a Rugby World Cup year.

For all of Ireland's recent consistency, there are still some big calls around his match-day 23.

Tadhg Furlong's return from injury is a huge boon, highlighted by Leinster's difficulties in the scrum of late. Farrell will want his starting tighthead ready to go for a physical challenge away from home, but considering how important he is, and that he hasn’t played any rugby since December, it will be all about game management.

Tadhg Furlong has been sidelined with ankle, hamstring and calf issues

Connacht's Finlay Bealham will be Furlong's understudy, coming into Irish camp off the back of a player of the match performance with a hat-trick of tries in the Challenge Cup against Newcastle.

Considering the recent news of Rónan Kelleher’s injury, the hooker position is now a bit more straight forward.

Dan Sheehan will start with Rob Herring on the bench. Tom Stewart, who has reduced Herring’s minutes in Ulster, has been called up, but the South African's set-piece and experience is likely to be decisive.

The second row will be hugely competitive but Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan are expected to start. Iain Henderson is coming back from a concussion and could provide cover if deemed fit, however, Ryan Baird offers the same cover.

Given Baird’s athleticism in the second row and back row, he could well get the nod too.

The back row of Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris has a settled look to it. O'Mahony's experience, Van der Flier's form, that saw him crowned world player of the year, and Doris' ability both on the ball and at the ruck makes it a most formidable trio.

Evergreen Johnny Sexton will return to captain the side after a nasty cheekbone injury. Like Furlong, he hasn’t played much rugby since Christmas, but this nearly works in his favour. The 37-year-old never seems to lose his sharpness, ably assisted by Jamison Gibson-Park at half-back.

Johnny Sexton and Jamison Gibson-Park have been Ireland's first choice half-back pairing

I'm expecting Conor Murrary and Ross Byrne to provide half-back options on the bench. They both play with a lot of control and would be perfect to see out a game, should Ireland start well and get ahead.

Likewise, Munster pair Craig Casey and Jack Crowley could offer a spark if Ireland are chasing, but I’m not sure that will be Farrell’s thought process heading into an away game in Cardiff.

Murray and Byrne offer the calm control, but also bring a point of difference to Gibson-Park in particular. Casey and Crowley will have their time in this year's Six Nations, but possibly not on the opening weekend.

The centre partnership will definitely split opinion.

With Robbie Henshaw’s absence, the real question is who will partner Garry Ringrose?

Ringrose has been in the form of his career and will be a real leader and match winner for Ireland. Bundee Aki is expected to start, however, considering his issues in Connacht and lack of game time, there still remains an element of doubt.

His physicality and experience is needed away in Cardiff.

Stuart McCloskey is still a great option at 12, despite Ulster’s recent rocky form. He has shown how effective he can be in defence in the Irish side and he’s got the size to dominate the midfield on the international stage.

I wouldn’t rule out Jamie Osborne either. Farrell shocked us all in his selection of Mack Hansen, when Hansen had impressed everyone at training.

Could Leinster's Jamie Osborne feature in this year's Six Nations?

Osborne is in such good form for Leinster and looks to have a huge ceiling in terms of his rugby ability and his athletic development. Being sandwiched between his two Leinster captains in Sexton and Ringrose should work out well for the young centre in the long term.

If he doesn’t make it into the team, he’s capable of making it on the bench. He’s definitely one to watch and if Farrell is going to expand his squad ahead of the World Cup, Osborne could well be the bolter that we’re all waiting for.

The back three is another well-contested area of the pitch for Ireland.

If we assume that Hugo Keenan is nailed on to start, and Hansen is still the front runner on the right wing, then the biggest decision is on the left wing.

James Lowe hasn’t played any rugby since late December, while Jacob Stockdale hasn’t been in the greatest form and lost his central contract.

Jimmy O’Brien has been on an upward trajectory over the last 18 months, and would be an ideal candidate for the bench because of his versatility across the backline.

Jimmy O'Brien caught the eye during the November internationals

The flipside, however, is that you don’t want to pick your starting team based on who is best to have on the bench.

All three players provide a great left-footed kicking option, which we know is a key part of Ireland’s exit strategy, along with Sexton’s right foot and the scrum halves’ ability to box-kick.

Lowe would be the most likely to start, if he hadn’t been away, and maybe still is.

We will eagerly await Farrell’s first Six Nations selection to see where his head is at with winning the competition and preparing for later in the year.

Wales in Cardiff is a tough start for Ireland, but one that can springboard them to a greater success this year.

Follow every game of the Guinness Six Nations on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the RTÉ News app, or listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1.

Watch live television coverage of Ireland v France (11 February), Italy v Ireland (25 February) and Scotland v Ireland (12 March) on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.