For any team harbouring title-winning ambitions, a good start is essential, and Ireland have done just that.
With three wins from three and 13 tries scored, Ireland have enjoyed the perfect start to their NatWest 6 Nations challenge.
It began with a dramatic late win in Paris, a somewhat more comfortable victory over Italy in Round Two, before pulling away to record a very satisfying win of the Welsh in Dublin.
Joe Schmidt’s men go into Saturday’s match against Scotland leading the way with a five point cushion over second-placed England, knowing that a win could put one hand on the trophy, but here we look back at Ireland’s campaign up to this point.
ROUND ONE: SEXTON DROP-GOAL MAGIC
Ireland made no secret of their title ambitions going into the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations, with three home games to look forward to, bookended by visits to the Stade de France and Twickenham.
On a wet night in Paris, Ireland found themselves relying on the boot of Johnny Sexton to keep them clear of the French.
Maxime Machenaud responded to Sexton’s four penalties with two of his own before Teddy Thomas produced a moment of magic, running from halfway to score on 71 minutes.
Ireland needed to respond and did, with Sexton holding his nerve after 41 phases of play to slot home a 45-metre drop goal and break French hopes and steal the victory, winning 15-13.
ROUND TWO: TRIES APLENTY DOWN ITALY
Italy’s visit to the Aviva Stadium was much more straightforward from Ireland’s perspective as they ran in eight tries to beat Italy 56-19.
Robbie Henshaw broke the deadlock after ten minutes and Conor Murray, Bundee Aki and Keith Earls all scored tries of their own to secure the bonus point before the interval and make it 28-0 at half-time.
Ireland continued in the same vein after the break, with Henshaw crossing for a second and Rory Best getting in on the act.
Italy hit back through Tommaso Allan and Edoardo Gori, but Jacob Stockdale got in the act with two tries before Matteo Minozzi scored a late consolation.
ROUND THREE: WELSH COMEBACK DENIED
Despite Wales’ victory over Scotland and a solid performance against England, Ireland went into this clash as favourites having never lost at home in the Championship under Joe Schmidt.
Stockdale’s early try was cancelled out by Gareth Davies before Aki raced in to score on the stroke of half-time and give the hosts a 15-13 lead.
Dan Leavy and Cian Healy seemed to have secured the win in the second half, but Wales showed great spirit to bring it back with tries from Aaron Shingler and Steff Evans making it 30-27 with two minutes to go.
But Stockdale broke clear with an interception for his second double in as many games to seal the 37-27 win.
Up next is a home tie against a rejuvenated Scotland side, fresh from wins over France and England in the Calcutta Cup.
Can Ireland stay on course for a Grand Slam?