Andy Farrell says he does not buy in to so-called World Cup cycles as Ireland prepare for their Guinness Six Nations title defence.
Ireland kick off the tournament against France in Marseille on February 2 – their first game since making a crushing World Cup quarter-final exit to New Zealand.
World Cup skipper Johnny Sexton and wing Keith Earls have since retired, while the likes of Ross Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, Rob Herring, Mack Hansen and Jimmy O’Brien now miss out due to injuries.
Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony has succeeded Sexton as captain, but Ireland head coach Farrell is keen to build, rather than make a fresh post-World Cup start for Australia 2027.
And that approach is underlined by him selecting 26 players in his Six Nations squad who travelled to the World Cup in France.
“You look at the squad we have picked,” Farrell said, speaking at the Six Nations media launch in Dublin.
“Over the last couple of years we have capped a lot of players. Some of those players are under 10 caps or so, some have not been involved in the squad over the last 12-18 months, so trying to grow the squad in that sense is pretty important.
“We want to continue to grow, we want to continue to evolve our game, and you don’t do that by just cutting the legs off it and going again.
“Competition for places is premium, and it has to stay that way, so this is the start of a new Six Nations.
“I don’t buy into the four-year cycle that tends to come around when World Cups are finished.”
Farrell picked him for the role ahead of players like James Ryan, Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose and Caelan Doris.
O’Mahony guided Munster to last season’s United Rugby Championship title but stepped down as skipper of his province in November after 10 years in the role.
Farrell added: “There are a few candidates because we have got some great leadership within the group, and that will continue to grow and Peter will be at the heart of that to help it.
“Just being himself and helping others to grow. I know he will do the country proud.”
And O’Mahony said: “It is a huge honour. I am incredibly grateful to be asked.
“I think I have done it on 10 occasions, but to do it for a Six Nations campaign is very special and probably the biggest honour of my career so far.
“I wasn’t expecting it, to be honest. It was a special phone call to get (from Farrell), and a huge honour.”