Cardiff: Ireland coach Declan Kidney refused to brand next week’s clash with England in Dublin as a Grand Slam showdown despite victory over Wales.
Ireland overcame a major hurdle in their pursuit of only a second title in 28 years with an emphatic 30-22 win over the defending Six Nations champions in Cardiff.
And with both England and France to travel to Dublin, next week’s clash could prove the first significant step towards a Grand Slam for both Kidney and England counterpart Stuart Lancaster.
However Kidney played down the significance of the tie, admitting Ireland still have areas to improve after their second half display at the Millennium Stadium.
“I don’t buy into the thought that the Slam is now on because we have England and France at home this year because that suggest we should not bother every other year, as we have no chance,” said Kidney.
“The second half against Wales [which Ireland lost 19-7] proves we still have a lot of work to do.
“England and France are playing well and we still have to go to Murrayfield, where we lost the last time we were there.”
Ireland effectively won this opening match of the tournament inside 45 minutes after Simon Zebo, Cian Healy and man of the match Brian O’Driscoll all crossed to open a 30-3 lead over their hosts.
Wales responded with three tries of their own through Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny and Craig Mitchell though Ireland’s defence proved the difference after repelling a late Welsh flurry.
O’Driscoll said: “We’re thrilled with the result because the first game is a must-win otherwise you are chasing your tail for the rest of the Championship.
“Wales have done a job on us the last three times but we came out of the blocks in the first half and played really well.
“We knew they weren’t going to be flat for the whole game and put it up to us in the second half. But we held out and it’s great to get the win.”
Defeat saw Wales suffer their fifth straight loss in Cardiff for the first time and are now without a win since beating the Barbarians last June. Now they head to Paris to face France looking to end an eight-game losing run.
Interim head coach Rob Howley said: “This team has been here before and bounced back and we will do that again.
“We need to look at where we went wrong for the first 30 minutes and take the positives from the second half. We showed character to come back from 30-3 down but we didn’t give ourselves a chance with our mistakes early on.
“You always question yourself as a coach when you lose. Selection is something we have to look at.
“We will have to look at selection after we have looked back at the game in its entirety. We wanted momentum and focused on the first game but now unfortunately we need to [look] backwards at what went wrong rather than look forward.”