Ireland winger Tommy Bowe says the 'clear the air' camp at Christmas created the atmosphere that has brought them to the brink of an elusive RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam.
The Irish need only to beat Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday to win a first Grand Slam since 1948.
A championship title, which has eluded Ireland since 1985, now would feel like a consolation prize.
But Bowe insists critics should appreciate how far the team has come since their failed 2007 World Cup campaign and last season’s RBS 6 Nations disappointment.
"At the start of this tournament no one would have thought it would be an anti-climax if we won the Six Nations," said the three-quarter.
"But with the thoughts of a Grand Slam on everyone's minds it's a huge match.
"It would be an outstanding achievement for a team that last autumn people were wondering what was happening with them.
"There was a lot of talk about what was going wrong and why we weren't able to transfer our form into a green jersey.
"There was a camp at Christmas which rectified a lot of those questions.
"A lot of people had to come up with answers that maybe weren't the most comfortable to deal with but it is paying off now.
"This will be as big a match as I've played. It would be huge anyway playing against some of my team-mates in Wales but given what is at stake it's going to be enormous."
Bowe, who plays his club rugby for Ospreys, says there is no antipathy between he and the Welsh players.
Anxiety gripped the 25-year-old before he arrived at the Liberty Stadium but his new team-mates, eight of whom will start at the Millennium Stadium, soon dispelled any pre-conceived ideas.
"You hear in the papers more than anything about egos and different personalities," said Bowe. "I was a little bit worried wondering what they were all going to be like.
"When I played in the Wales game last year I didn’t know any of the boys but Lee Byrne was straight over chatting to me afterwards.
"They’re a good bunch and I’m looking forward to a bit of banter out on the pitch and hopefully a bit of fun after it.
"People wrote me off going over to play in a Welsh region with so much talent but I've fitted in well and have played some good rugby."
Living in Wales has offered Bowe an insight into the pressure facing Gatland's side as they seek to defend their title by winning by at least 13 points.
"There's a huge expectancy in Wales," said the former Gaelic footballer, who has scored nine tries in 22 appearances in a green shirt.
"With the talent they have and winning the Grand Slam last year they are still expecting to win the championship, whatever the margin is they have to beat us by.
"In their minds the Six Nations is still a very realistic possibility and there is obviously the Triple Crown too.
"There is no doubt they have the players who can do it if they perform and if the passes stick."