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It’s really on, Ireland now have a chance to lift the cup

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DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Keith Earls of Ireland is congratulated by his team mates after scoring a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Keith Earls of Ireland is congratulated by his team mates after scoring a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mark Kolbe

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  (L_R) Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien of Ireland pose for a picture after winning the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: (L_R) Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien of Ireland pose for a picture after winning the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

Birthday boy Keith Earls of Ireland dives over to score a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy

Birthday boy Keith Earls of Ireland dives over to score a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy

Mark Kolbe

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Sean O'Brien of Ireland is tackled during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Sean O'Brien of Ireland is tackled during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mark Kolbe

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Jonathan Sexton of Ireland kicks a penalty during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Jonathan Sexton of Ireland kicks a penalty during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

An Ireland fan in the stands during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

An Ireland fan in the stands during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Lynne Cameron

Italy fans in the stands during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Italy fans in the stands during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Lynne Cameron

Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll celebrates scoring a try with Ronan O'Gara (left) during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll celebrates scoring a try with Ronan O'Gara (left) during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Lynne Cameron

Ireland's Paul O'Connell gets tackled by Italy's Paul Derbyshire during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Ireland's Paul O'Connell gets tackled by Italy's Paul Derbyshire during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Lynne Cameron

Ireland's Sean O'Brien tries to break through the Italy defence during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Ireland's Sean O'Brien tries to break through the Italy defence during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Lynne Cameron

Donncha O'Callaghan

Donncha O'Callaghan

Lynne Cameron

Ireland fans in the stands during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Ireland fans in the stands during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Lynne Cameron

Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll kicks through as Italy's Gonzalo Garcia (right) attempts to block during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll kicks through as Italy's Gonzalo Garcia (right) attempts to block during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Lynne Cameron

Ireland fans in the stands wearing fancy dress during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Ireland fans in the stands wearing fancy dress during the IRB Rugby World Cup match at the Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 2, 2011. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS Use subject to restrictions. Editorial reporting purposes only; no images to be used to simulate a moving image. Commercial including Book use only with prior written approval. Call +44 (0) 1158 447447 or see www.pressassociation.com/images/restrictions.

Lynne Cameron

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Paul O'Connell of Ireland looks on as players prepare to scrum during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Paul O'Connell of Ireland looks on as players prepare to scrum during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Gordon D'Arcy of Ireland (C) is tackled by Fabio Semenzato of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Gordon D'Arcy of Ireland (C) is tackled by Fabio Semenzato of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Brian OÄôDriscoll of Ireland celebrates scoring a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Brian OÄôDriscoll of Ireland celebrates scoring a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mark Kolbe

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Brian OÄôDriscoll of Ireland is congratulated by his team mates as he celebrates scoring a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Brian OÄôDriscoll of Ireland is congratulated by his team mates as he celebrates scoring a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mark Kolbe

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Brian OÄôDriscoll of Ireland scores a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Brian OÄôDriscoll of Ireland scores a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mark Kolbe

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland is congratulated by teammates after he scores their first try, as Tommaso Benvenuti of Italy shows his dejection during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland is congratulated by teammates after he scores their first try, as Tommaso Benvenuti of Italy shows his dejection during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland (2R) is congratulated by teammates Rob Kearney (3R) and Donncha OÄôCallaghan (L) after he scores their first try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Brian O'Driscoll of Ireland (2R) is congratulated by teammates Rob Kearney (3R) and Donncha OÄôCallaghan (L) after he scores their first try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Tommy Bowe of Ireland (R) offloads the ball as he is tackled by Riccardo Bocchino of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Tommy Bowe of Ireland (R) offloads the ball as he is tackled by Riccardo Bocchino of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Sergio Parisse of Italy (down) is tackled by Conor Murray (L) and Mike Ross of Ireland during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Sergio Parisse of Italy (down) is tackled by Conor Murray (L) and Mike Ross of Ireland during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Gordon D'Arcy of Ireland (2L) is tackled by Salvatore Perugini of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Gordon D'Arcy of Ireland (2L) is tackled by Salvatore Perugini of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Keith Earls of Ireland scores a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Keith Earls of Ireland scores a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mark Kolbe

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Conor Murray of Ireland makes an attacking run during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Conor Murray of Ireland makes an attacking run during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Gordon DÄôArcy of Ireland makes a break during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Gordon DÄôArcy of Ireland makes a break during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mark Kolbe

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  An Ireland fan enjoys the atmosphere ahead of the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: An Ireland fan enjoys the atmosphere ahead of the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  A lone Italian fan enjoys the atmosphere ahead of the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: A lone Italian fan enjoys the atmosphere ahead of the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  (L-R)  Mirco Bergamasco, Mauro Bergamasco and Tommaso Benvenuti of Italy sing their national anthem ahead of the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: (L-R) Mirco Bergamasco, Mauro Bergamasco and Tommaso Benvenuti of Italy sing their national anthem ahead of the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Martin Castrogiovanni of Italy receives medical attention during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Martin Castrogiovanni of Italy receives medical attention during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Ronan OÄôGara of Ireland kicks a penalty during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Ronan OÄôGara of Ireland kicks a penalty during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Ronan OÄôGara of Ireland tries to break from the challenge of Sergio Parisse of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Ronan OÄôGara of Ireland tries to break from the challenge of Sergio Parisse of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Referee Jonathan Kaplan (R) talks with Paul OÄôConnell of Ireland during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Referee Jonathan Kaplan (R) talks with Paul OÄôConnell of Ireland during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Alessandro Zanni of Italy (L) tries to break past Keith Earls of Ireland during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Alessandro Zanni of Italy (L) tries to break past Keith Earls of Ireland during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Gordon DÄôArcy of Ireland (C) cleashes with Gonzalo Canale of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Gordon DÄôArcy of Ireland (C) cleashes with Gonzalo Canale of Italy during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Martin Castrogiovanni of Italy looks on during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Martin Castrogiovanni of Italy looks on during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Paul OÄôConnell of Ireland (C) eyes the ball during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Paul OÄôConnell of Ireland (C) eyes the ball during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Warren Little

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Luciano Orquera of Italy kicks the ball clear during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Luciano Orquera of Italy kicks the ball clear during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill

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DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Keith Earls of Ireland is congratulated by his team mates after scoring a try during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Italy at Dunedin Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

It is imperative at this stage of the tournament that we don't lose the run of ourselves, but I can't recall a more complete rugby performance from an Irish team in recent times than what we witnessed in Dunedin yesterday.

Beating England the way we did back in March was momentous for many reasons, but, for me, the high-stakes context of this victory elevated it to a higher status.

This was a day when everything fitted into place through meticulous planning, hard graft and clinical execution.

It represented a game in which each and every individual contributed from beginning to end; in which every ounce of honest effort in the first half was matched by a display of total confidence and quality in the second. It was total rugby. Even the final five minutes, when the game was well and truly won, were as impressive as the corresponding period at the start.

Factor in a third quarter that was as close to rugby perfection as you could hope for, and you've got the drift.

You reap what you sow and by matching the fired-up Italians everywhere, not least in the much-hyped scrum, we paved the way for the uninhibited quality we witnessed in a 27-point second-half extravaganza.

Only in the driving maul did we struggle for parity in the opening period, but even their most potent weapon on the day was negated after the break.

The benefits of Eden Park and that extraordinary victory over the Wallabies are now kicking in. Confidence is clearly spreading in a group that had rightly been pilloried for its slowness in coming out of the blocks.

We demanded brain over brawn in varying the angle and point of attack and we got it in abundance, with forwards cleverly interlinking with soft hands and subtle changes of direction that bit further away from the breakdown.

Moreover, the indiscipline, which was such an obvious and costly problem in the spring, has now been addressed in the most practical way.

We will deal with the biggest clash in Irish/Welsh rugby history in the coming days, but for now let us bask in a professional job incredibly well done. We didn't just beat Nick Mallet's well-tutored, highly motivated side, we positively pulverised them.

Our scrum was awesome, our lineout reliable and our work at the breakdown, both with the ball and without, was exemplary.

The work of the front-row at scrum time was exceptional. Here Mike Ross has been immense.

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Given the appropriate platform, Stephen Ferris and Sean O'Brien wreaked havoc. We now have as good a back-row as any other team at this World Cup.

And while Ferris and O'Brien will garner the lion's share of praise for their broken field running, we cannot overlook the role being played by the under-fire Jamie Heaslip.

To that, add the key role played by Conor Murray. He is the essence of simplicity, a scrum-half who goes about his business in the most understated way.

One way or the other, we, like the Welsh, announced our credentials to the rest of the watching world. Our World Cup focus extends no further than Warren Gatland and co, but dare we dream to the French and English beyond that?

Who knows what lies in the fortnight ahead, but one thing is sure, we are now serious contenders for this World Cup.

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