Brian O'Driscoll has hailed the return to Test rugby of Jonny Wilkinson as remarkable - but insists the England matchwinner needs more time to recover his best form.
Wilkinson finally ended his injury-enforced exile, which dated back to the 2003 World Cup final, in England's RBS 6 Nations opener against Scotland.
The Newcastle fly-half enjoyed a fairytale comeback, finishing with a 27-point haul - the highest by an Englishman against Scotland - and the man-of-the-match award.
His long absence, which coincided with England's nightmare slump, became a distant memory as Scotland were crushed 42-20 at Twickenham.
The world champions' confidence had been lifted and although Wilkinson failed to scale similar heights against Italy a week later, the Six Nations title had become a realistic target.
But O'Driscoll, who will lead Ireland against England in Saturday's Croke Park showdown, knows the 2007 championship has yet to see the best of the 27-year-old.
'Jonny needs to be given time to get back into international rugby,' said the Lions skipper.
'Three years in the wilderness will have taken its toll and that's what made his performance against Scotland all the more remarkable.
'It shows how mentally tough he is as well because it was a great display considering the pressure he was under. I imagine he will get consistently better the more he plays.
'Jonny has done so well so far. England were convincing winners against Scotland and ground out a result against Italy.
'Neither side played very well in the Italy match but it's the sign of a good team that even when they don't fire on all cylinders, they can still churn out results.
'Jonny seemed to have picked up where he left off the last time he was in an England jersey. He controls things so well.
'He's is a pivotal character - and that's the understatement of the year.
'He's massively important to any side he's played in and I don't envisage it being any different this time around.'