And here we take a look at some of the younger players who are beginning to forge their own path towards the Irish jersey and could be in contention for the 2018 Championship.
A former captain of the Ireland Under-20s, Dan Leavy has enjoyed a breakout 12 months for club and now country.
In a stacked back row for both Leinster and Ireland, the 22-year-old has turned in a string of star performances.
So much so that, after making his international debut against Canada last autumn, he was included on the bench in Dublin for their Grand Slam decider against England earlier this month.
That admittedly came about because of Jamie Heaslip's late injury pull-out, but Schmidt trusted the youngster to not just move him from 24th man to bench replacement, but also thrust him into the action in the second half for only his second cap.
While the likes of Sean O'Brien, Josh van der Flier and Jordi Murphy are all challenging him for game time in blue and green, Leavy's own skillset provides a strong point of difference.
One of the strongest over the ball in the Guinness PRO12, his 23 turnovers this season and counting are the joint most of any player in the league.
Throw in his fine handling skills and Ireland might just have discovered the natural No.7 for many years to come.
Schmidt handed debuts to two Irish players during this year's RBS 6 Nations - both of them hailing from Munster.
Andrew Conway impressed off the bench against England in the final game but hooker Niall Scannell was probably their find of the Championship.
And with Rory Best now 34 and a potential Lions call-up this summer, Scannell can further his claims as Ireland's hooker of the future in time for the 2018 Championship.
Coming into this season, the Munster man sat a long way down the pecking order.
But his displays for a province that are chasing a Guinness PRO12 and European double have been little short of supreme and with Sean Cronin injured and James Tracy getting his chance in November, Scannell leapfrogged them both.
That meant that when Best withdrew on the morning of the clash with Italy with illness in February, Scannell came straight into the side and made his debut in the No.2 jersey.
Near flawless in the lineout and tireless in the loose, the 24-year-old was impressive on debut and in his subsequent three bench appearances in the rest of the Championship.
With a strong summer against USA and Japan, the youngster could be pushing Best hard for the starting spot soon enough.
Those in the know have been salivating at the prospect of Jordan Larmour's emergence on the international scene for a while now.
Called in to train with the senior side last November, the young flyer was sensational for the Under-20s this year.
They fell just short of denying England the Under-20s Grand Slam in Donnybrook but the 19-year-old Larmour, who started the Championship at wing before moving to full-back, was dangerous every time he got the ball in his hands.
The Leinster academy prospect can play just about anywhere across the back line, and if his progression continues, he could be in the senior jersey before too long.