First and foremost Saturday provided Ireland with a victory, a place to build from. While the performance was not particularly impressive at least they managed to close out the game and take the win.
Ireland started very positively and we created three or four clear try-scoring opportunities in the opening half an hour but only took one of them. From that point the nerves began to set in and the performance went flat. I had felt very comfortable at the break but I was distinctly uncomfortable by the time the final 10 minutes came around.
One of the high points for Ireland was the performance of scrum-half Eoin Reddan. He was lively throughout and his sniping breaks were always a threat to the Italians.
Aside from the team performance, the low point was Gordon D'Arcy's injury. He is a big loss when in form, but to be fair to Gordon he has not been in good form for Ireland or Leinster. Maybe this break will re-energise him and give him back his enthusiasm for the game.
Full credit must go to Italy. They fought well and I felt that Pietro Travagli and Andrea Masi grew into the game as it went on and Sergio Parisse's performance at No 8 was excellent. They showed great discipline when down to 14 men and on another day they could have claimed a famous victory. Nick Mallett's side will prove a handful for the other side's in the RBS Six Nations.
Ireland now travel to Paris to face France. I watched the way the French beat Scotland and it appears that Marc Lievremont has loosened the shackles and they seemed to want to move the ball around more than they did under Bernard Laporte. The young fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc had a steady game and was very composed and just did the simple things well. Vincent Clerc was simply masterful and took his tries very well. He will be a big danger.
I don't think Ireland should be written off, Scotland were very poor against France and I would hope Ireland may be able to give them a sterner test and maybe put pressure on some of the younger faces in the French ranks. If Eddie O'Sullivan can get a positive attitude into his side, difficult though it will be under current circumstances, then Ireland may rediscover a better patch of form.