Jonathan Sexton has urged new-look Ireland to seize the chance to establish the next golden generation of international stars.
The Irish head into Saturday’s Guinness Series opener against South Africa at Aviva Stadium without their two injured Lions captains Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell.
Seasoned campaigners Stephen Ferris, Rob Kearney, Rory Best and Sean O’Brien have also been lost to the treatment room.
Robbed of six key personnel, Ireland face seemingly insurmountable odds tomorrow even if a run of three wins in four Test against the Springboks is encouraging.
But rather than wilting before the challenge awaiting at Lansdowne Road, Sexton has demanded his team-mates begin the process of transforming themselves into household names
“We have to believe that we’re good enough,” said the Leinster fly-half.
“We’re obviously missing a lot of very good players throughout the team, but at some stage of their careers those guys that we’re missing would have been the new kids on the block.
“It’s time now for us to step up and start building the type of reputations those guys have.
“They developed those reputations by producing week-in, week-out for Ireland and hopefully we can start doing that now.”
Little has gone Ireland’s way as they seek to end a sequence of successive Test defeats dating back to England in the final match of the RBS Six Nations.
Completing the run was the summer whitewash by New Zealand, who inflicted a humiliating 60-0 rout upon an Irish team that just a week earlier was on the brink of a first victory over the All Blacks.