Andy Farrell insists his Ireland side responded to their slow start to the 2021 Guinness Six Nations in the perfect fashion, as they overcame Italy 48-10 in Rome on Saturday afternoon.
The Men in Green went into the clash at Stadio Olimpico on the back of successive defeats to France and Wales, marking their worst ever start to a six-team Championship.
But that losing streak came to an end against the Azzurri, as Will Connors helped himself to two tries, as well as further scores from Hugo Keenan, Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Keith Earls.
And Farrell believes a performance of that calibre was on the cards, with his side itching to put the record straight after the rest week.
“It’s not nice coming off of two losses and waiting a couple of weeks to try and put that right,” the Ireland boss said.
“We talked about it as a test of character and they’ve stayed strong and they’ve stayed very united together and as a group they’ve all pulled together and shown their leadership in different ways.
“I thought we earned the right to score some points with the way we approached the game in the first half, I thought our attitude was top class, we approached the game in the right manner.
“We paid the game the right respect and Italy the right respect, I thought we punched away really well in the first half and the game opened up in the end.”
Ireland looked like a team hungry for the victory right from the first whistle in Rome, with all 15 players coming out with a point to prove, and it took just ten minutes for them to get their first try as Ringrose touched down to score.
Keenan added another on the half-hour mark, before Connors grabbed his first minutes later, with the scoreline 27-10 at the break thanks to Johan Meyer’s try for the hosts.
CJ Stander then crossed to secure the bonus point for the visitors, before Connors and Earls went over to improve the points difference.
To a man the Irish side oozed confidence throughout the 80 minutes in a commanding performance, but there were a trio of players celebrating personal achievements that caught the eye of captain Johnny Sexton.
Robbie Henshaw brought up a half-century of international appearances with a superb performance at centre, with the 27-year-old making 13 tackles as well as carrying the ball 56 metres on the Stadio Olimpico turf.
There were also Ireland debuts for Craig Casey and Ryan Baird, with the two 21-year-olds making their bow in the second half in Rome, leaving Sexton excited for the future of the international side.
“I thought Robbie [Henshaw] was outstanding, he was the best player on the park for me on his 50th cap,” the Ireland skipper said.
“Sometimes when you get through a milestone like that, I remember my 50th cap and you get a presentation and you get a bit emotional, sometimes it can take away from your performance and you feel a bit drained.
“But the way that he played was outstanding, and I thought he was the best player in the park and he deserved his rest for 15 minutes.
“I didn’t know Craig Casey that well because I’ve never played with him, but his attitude, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone that reminds me of what I read about Jonny Wilkinson, that’s the only person I can relate it to.
“It’s inspiring for the rest of the group, for someone like me even, at this stage of my career I like to be last off the pitch, but I’m never last off the pitch with him around, he’s been brilliant and Ryan was outstanding when he came on, he’s got that energy and he’s an incredibly athlete.”