Having comfortably negotiated the challenge of England in Dublin yesterday, captain Paul O’Connell said the biggest test for Ireland in the current RBS 6 Nations Championship would come now at the Millennium Stadium in a fortnight’s time.
Ireland built on a 9-3 first half lead to win their 10th consecutive game - eight of them in the Aviva Stadium - 19-9 against the other unbeaten team in this season’s Six Nations to keep them on track to successfully defend their title and repeat the Grand Slam success of 2009, which was ironically the last time they had beaten England and winning in Wales secured the outright success.
Wales came right back into Championship contention on Saturday with a win in Paris over France and although Ireland are yet to lose, that game in Cardiff on Saturday, March 14 could be seen as a championship decider - even opening the door for England again.
“It’s probably going to be our hardest day of the championship, away from home is obviously harder,” O’Connell said.
“Wales have put themselves in with a chance with a big win over in Paris so it’s going to be incredibly difficult.”
Equalling the record set previously by Ireland of 10 consecutive wins during 2002-03, O’Connell admitted the squad had not really talked about it, but said it was something to be proud off.
“It gives us a certain amount of confidence in what we are doing,” said O’Connell.
“There is no doubt there are certain aspects of our game which we have improved immensely.
“But looking at that game today I would love to be finishing with ball in hand when we are defending, or attacking at the end of a match.”
Ireland coach, Joe Schmidt, said the most pleasing aspect of the game was the fact his side were able to go out and play rugby against a side who wanted to do the same in comparison to other games.
“England bring a certain quality to the game and it is good to be able to put yourself up against that.
“Whether it’s the power carriers like Billy Vunipola, Jack Nowell who carried very, very powerfully or all their fleet-footed guys like Alex Goode who also carried very well, Jonathan Joseph, Watson got a bit of space one time and you wouldn’t want to give him space a second time.
“So the fact we kept them off our try line and showed lot of character when they started to come in swarms at us was really pleasing for me.
“The players can be very proud of that effort, and the structures they maintained through that period.”
Ireland lost powerhouse flanker Sean O’Brien in the first half to a concussion injury and Jonathan Sexton limped off with a hamstring issue midway through the second half.
Schmidt said: “It was precautionary with Jonny. He felt the hamstring tighten after he had kicked the conversion to Robbie try and we felt it appropriate to take him off at that time.
“ Sean will work his way through those over next six days. He’s certainly asymptomatic at the moment, he’s fine, just a little bit grumpy and disappointed he didn’t see out the match.”
Ulster’s Jared Payne also went off having taken a bang to the head on 68 minutes but Schmidt said: “Jared is absolutely fine, he passed everything on the side of pitch. We just thought it was probably pertinent to leave him at that stage.”