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Good time to get the mojo back

At last, Ireland found what they had been looking for, a day in which performance and result were married together to deny England their first Grand Slam since 2003.

More than that, it leaves a sweet taste on the lips after a Six Nations campaign that veered between spluttering like an old banger and motoring like a Rolls Royce.

"If you are to win a match, win your last one because that is the one that will carry you through three or four months," shared Ireland coach Declan Kidney.

In essence, the end of the Six Nations championship is the beginning of the build-up to the World Cup in New Zealand. Sure, there will be time to review, replenish and renew in the off-season. But, at last, Ireland have shown what they've always known -- the right way forward.

In one evening of relentless aggression, scrum certainty, lineout accuracy, back row symmetry, cleansing of the breakdown, pincer movement in midfield, stinging counters from the back three and clarity of thought from out-half, Ireland rediscovered their 'mojo'.

They were right. They had not become a bad team over one year. They had just forgotten how to use what they have. It is still right there at their fingertips.


Who knows? Maybe this is just the sort of soul-searching that will give the management and players the evidence to know how they have to progress.

"We wanted to set down a marker that we are back home. We brought great intensity. We have done it at times in the championship. This was probably a more complete performance," said captain Brian O'Driscoll.

"The pack really fronted up. They basically, along with the control of Jono (Sexton), were the winning of the game. They just created a fantastic platform for us."

The man of so many moments, Jonathan Sexton emerged as a cool, clean hero out of a trying time for all the debate over which playmaker should lead Ireland into the World Cup. Still, he was called ashore so that the venerable Ronan O'Gara could close out the game. They passed like ships on the sea, the crowd rising to one and the other.

"It was for Ronan as much as myself. It was great to get an ovation like that. There is a lot written about the two of us. We are fully aware when one plays well, the other gets criticised. That is not how it should work," stated Sexton.

The glow of victory passes quite quickly. Sexton knows that the decisions that made him on Saturday could break him on another day, like the time he chose to tap-and-go in his own 22 early on.

"The out-half takes the brunt of most things. If we had passed it wide and dropped the ball it would have been 'why was I running it from there?' You make decisions. In many ways, you rely on other people for the outcome.

"That is what is frustrating at times. Not everyone looks at the bigger picture. I am lucky that I've got great coaches at Leinster and Ireland that do see the bigger picture.

"They obviously backed me today when it could have easily gone the other way (O'Gara had been selected). No one could have argued if it did. It will still be a hot topic, I'm sure."

Quite simply, Ireland couldn't afford to lose at home to a callow England. It would have lodged a strong doubt in the minds of the public and, also, the players.

"There would have been a lot of doubts. We would have doubted ourselves. We said all along we weren't far away. We wanted to back that up. We didn't want to have to come out and say that again," said Sexton.

Scrum-half Eoin Reddan knew there was something special in the air in the build-up and from the very first scrum of the match.

The front row union of Mike Ross, Rory Best and Cian Healy, backed up by the back five, set the tone for the day with the best scrum Ireland has produced at the Aviva.

"Because we were going forward, you leave it in when that happens and, maybe, milk a penalty. It was great. It was a great boost for the lads, a great boost for the whole stadium," sounded Reddan.

There are still areas to work on: "It is important we keep discipline. They were playing in phases and phases and couldn't break us. That is something that needs to stay.

"Les (Kiss, defence coach) has done very well in terms of predicting what we're going to be facing every week and things to watch for. That is important.

"In attack, we really need to be clinical at the breakdown. It is huge. We need to clean past the ball. We need to take players out of the game. That's when things happen. That is key. We need to be excellent in that area."

England coach Martin Johnson is a no-nonsense character. He doesn't do fudge. He says it as it is. What did England do wrong?

"All the things that you don't need to do when you're away from home against this sort of team in this sort of game. Very quickly things can slip away from you.

"We take this on the chin. We got beaten by a good team, an experienced team. The game went the way they wanted it to go because they made it that way and we couldn't stop it.

"They're very good at what they do. They held up ball and made it a maul. They're the best team, probably, in the world at grappling and keeping the ball up in the air. That is what they do.

"Do you have to get your scars and bruises in before you win something? You hope not, but, probably, you do. Ireland had theirs before they won their Grand Slam. I certainly had mine before I won mine in '03."