Rory Best parked an emotional farewell in front of the Aviva Stadium crowds to stay focused on the next job as Ireland depart for Japan and the World Cup this week.
The captain will lead a 31-man squad onto the plane for Tokyo on Wednesday with an added spring to their steps following a 19-10 victory over Wales in Dublin on Saturday.
It was a perfect send-off for Best, 37, set to retire after the World Cup. Playing for Ireland on home soil for the final time in his 120th Test, the hooker received a standing ovation as he was replaced on 52 minutes and was tearful during a post-match interview before taking a final lap of honour with his children.
“It is obviously incredibly special,” Best said. “This place has given me some wonderful memories, some ones that you have had to use to try and be better and to get that reception from the supporters here. It’s nice for my mum and dad, my young family, and my wife to be in there and to hear that.
“It’s nice to see that over a fairly long period of time you have done more things right than not, and to get that appreciation is lovely.
“Ultimately it was about making sure that we were able to build on last week. It’s nice to get the standing ovation and the applause, but the performance and the result was far more important than that.”
Ireland’s success against Wales will provide an ideal platform for their Pool A campaign, which starts against Scotland on September 22 in Yokohama.
“The lads last week (against Wales in Cardiff) put a bit of a marker down as to where we expect the physicality to be, and where we expect that collective to be, and we knew we need to improve and take another step. I think that was another step today in terms of those aspects of the game.
“Those are the aspects that we pride ourselves on that, certainly in Twickenham (on August 24) and bits of the Six Nations, we didn’t feel as players we were good enough in. We know we have a lot more in us and we know we are going to have to produce a lot more, but I think in terms of steps in the right direction, I think that is a performance we can be happy with and get on the plane on Wednesday with a bit of confidence.”
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt said he was hopeful the injury to wing Keith Earls early in the second half was nothing serious. Earls had been making his first appearance of the summer having suffered from tendonitis in a knee and was replaced on 52 minutes after a bang on his left leg.
“He’s walking around OK,” Schmidt said. “It just seemed like his quad.”