Paul O'Connell, Ireland, at the final whistle. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Ireland captain Paul O’Connell predicted his side’s hardest test for Grand Slam glory will come in Wales after England were beaten 19-9 in Dublin.
Wales are also in with a chance of the RBS 6 Nations title after beating France in Paris on Saturday night and O’Connell expects a huge occasion at the Millennium Stadium on March 14.
“It’s probably going to be our hardest day of the championship, away from home is obviously harder,” O’Connell said on BBC1 after Ireland equalled their record of 10 consecutive wins at the Aviva Stadium.
“They’ve put themselves in with a chance with a big win over in Paris so it’s going to be incredibly difficult.”
Ireland led 9-3 at the interval with Sexton booting three penalties and England’s only reply being a George Ford drop goal.
Sexton added another penalty before centre Robbie Henshaw, the official man-of-the-match, claimed the game’s only try after 53 minutes and two late Ford penalties counted for nothing.
“Our first-half discipline was very good and the first 20 minutes of the second half was excellent,” O’Connell said.
“Our out-half (Sexton) kicked very well and got the points over the bar and we played a lot of great rugby to get 19-3 up.
“The setback was a bit disappointing but I’ve got a lot of respect for this England team, to beat them we’re delighted.
“The try gave us massive breathing space. Our discipline got those points on the board and when you can tag a try onto that it’s a long way back for the other team.”
England coach Stuart Lancaster said he was disappointed with his side’s performance and the end of their own Grand Slam dream.
“We didn’t really fire a shot in the first half,” Lancaster said.
“You’ve got to take your opportunities at this level and the penalty count went against us as well.
“They got their try, we were playing catch-up and then it’s a big hurdle.
“Ireland went hard at the breakdown and our discipline has to be better when they’ve got a player like Johnny Sexton who can build a score.
“Test rugby is decided by small margins and the penalties you give away against top teams hurt you.”