Craig Casey says there are still plenty of improvements left in Ireland heading into the 2022 Guinness Six Nations championship.
Andy Farrell's side enter the new year riding an eight-game winning streak, having gained huge praise for the manner of their wins against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina in the Autumn Nations Series.
Casey, who won the most recent of his four caps in that 53-7 victory against Los Pumas, is part of a 37-man squad that will travel to Portugal tomorrow for a warm-weather training camp, ahead of the opener against Wales on 5 February.
The 22-year-old made his international breakthrough last year with his debut coming against Italy in Rome.
However, he had experienced his first camp in the autumn of 2020, one of several youngsters brought in as "development players".
It's a feeling that Connacht flanker Cian Prendergast is experiencing this time around, but Casey says he quickly got to grips with what was expected of him.
"Thinking back from I went in as a development player, all those nerves as I was driving up, you try and make them at home straight away, and for them to be themselves," said Casey.
"They'll need to be themselves so they can buy into the team. Trying to get everyone up to speed is important and making them feel at home.
"You get sent the plays before you come up so that whole car journey up I was just trying to go over the detail in my head that I’d done in the few days before. You’re trying to reinstate it in your head.
"The excitement going up the road; it’s the place you always wanted to be, where you want to be for the next 10 years. I was just trying to put my best foot forward and get back in, which I luckily did.
"It’s definitely different now from your first time going, you don't really know what to expect, you know it’s going to be a group of high standards but you’re not sure what it’ll be like, but you know exactly what it’s like now.
"You know exactly what you’re coming into, it’s not the unknown," he added.
With Jamison Gibson Park and Conor Murray expected to be the first choice scrum-halves for Farrell in his matchday squads, it's likely that - barring injury - Casey will have to make a huge impact in camp to break his way into the team, particularly for the high-profile away games against France and England.
However, with in-form scrum-halves like Kieran Marmion, Luke McGrath and Nathan Doak all currently behind Casey in the pecking order, the Shannon man knows he has to keep developing his game in order to add to his four caps.
The Limerick man said: "I've made a lot of improvements. My passing game is something I would say is my biggest rock, so I’m always trying to be even better so it becomes a point of difference.
"Control of the game, and kicking game, I feel has come on a good bit in the last few years and want to improve again.
"You're looking for improvements everywhere, we have a lot to build on from the autumn. We played three great games but there is still lots of room to improve.
"That's an exciting thing, you play very well but there are still things to improve."
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