"There's no doubting that the Cardiff game will be a big test. They have a good strong forward pack who are very physical, but they also have a lot of very fast and mobile backs that like to take the ball on. We can't afford to ease into the game because there will be a massive increase in terms of intensity from our three warm-up games.
At this time of year, and with places up for grabs, there's naturally a bit of nervousness in the squad. But that's a good thing because it means that everyone is focused on getting one of the starting 15 shirts. There's more depth in all positions this year and I believe that we're going into this new season with the strongest panel we've had since I arrived.
"There's a real intensity in the squad's preparations. The physicality and desire to improve bodes well and the key thing is getting off to a good start.
"Last weekend was my first real hit out, and fitness wise I feel that things are coming along nicely. We're all helping each other out and there has been a real team emphasis in training. Even though we're all competing for spots, the scrum-halves are always staying behind after training to help each other out. And that applies also to the hookers and the various other specialist positions in the squad.
"It is a big honour to lead the team in Leo's (Cullen) absence, but being captain doesn't change how I play or how I approach the game. With so many leaders in our squad everyone takes on their own individual responsibility during games, so the emphasis on the role of the captain has diminished over the years.
"On a personal level I love playing in Wales. The Welsh public are extremely knowledgeable and there's always a bit of banter when you're playing. I'd liken the atmosphere to playing in New Zealand or South Africa where rugby is the number one sport. That fanaticism can really inspire you and I'm sure we'll have a strong contingent over from Ireland to cheer us on also."