Facing up: Declan Kidney admits next week will be just as tough

BEFORE the game he was telling everyone it was "just another game". Afterwards Brian O'Driscoll had to concede it wasn't.

"It was different," he admitted in the post-match press conference. "It was probably more emotional than I thought it would be. But it was a fantastic feeling. It's a massive, massive honour to have played for my country a hundred times. And the reception on the way out was just an extra on winning the game."

That was about all O'Driscoll and Ireland conceded yesterday. Wales were held tryless and O'Driscoll took pride in that fact, something he feels stemmed from the lessons and hurt of the Paris defeat.

"All performances are based first and foremost on your defence and you'll find that in certain circumstances that you can create tries from your defensive performance and not just rely solely on your attacking game. That's definitely something we've targeted since the French game. We conceded a few tries in that game and individually and collectively people went away and looked at the performance, including myself, and wanted to put that right. And today I felt even when we were broken, our ability to scramble and our work ethic really stood us. That was one of the most pleasing things [about this win], because we try and be a very hard-working team."

When asked what most pleased him about Ireland's display, though, he pinpointed Ireland's power play when Lee Byrne was in the sin bin.

"When they went a man down we upped the tempo and went after them and played a lot of rugby. And they struggled to live with us for 10 minutes in particular. We just played a smart game [throughout]. We didn't try and play too much rugby but when the time arose, when the opportunities arose, we weren't afraid to throw it around. I think there were some good options from players in key positions. It was just generally a good all-round performance."

Beside him, Declan Kidney was just as quietly pleased. His only concerns were Gordon D'Arcy's knee and the IRB's latest interpretation of the breakdown ("There was a change of emphasis on the previous Six Nations matches. We [said to] Paddy O'Brien [on Thursday], 'Look, to be changing the emphasis on something in mid-competition seems extraordinary for a competition of the prestige of the Six Nations, it's not fair on the players', but we got no joy"). And even those concerns failed to perturb his equanimity. Craig Joubert had refereed just as he'd promised Kidney and as well as Kidney could have hoped for, while he was hopeful that D'Arcy could play a role against Scotland next week.

Kidney has compared that Scotland game to a final even if for a generation of Irish supporters and players Triple Crowns no longer represent the full bag of chips.

"Being a bit older than Brian, I came through decades where we never won anything. The GAA have been hugely supportive of us since we've been here and hopefully we'll pay them due respect in having a final in our last match here. But the Scots are well known for ruining a few Irish parties. The great thing about this competition is that no two games are alike, they all present different challenges. And the preparation for the next one has started already with the lads in the dressing room just trying to get themselves ready for what will be another hugely physical encounter."

Meanwhile, in the Welsh dressing rooms, bruised egos as well as bruised bodies had to be attended to. "I'm obviously disappointed with the performance," said Warren Gatland. "Ireland were very clinical. We had more territory and possession but unfortunately some turnovers were costly for us. The yellow card was very costly and the most disappointing thing is it appears we haven't learned our lesson from what happened against England. From a coaching perspective that's extremely frustrating."

And that was probably in it in a nutshell. Ireland have learned from Paris. Wales haven't from Twickenham.