Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll believes Munster's European Cup triumph last May has given Ronan O'Gara the confidence to become the best fly-half in the RBS 6 Nations.
O'Gara helped Munster finally achieve their holy grail at the Millennium Stadium after two agonising near-misses with a memorable victory over Biarritz.
The effect that success had on O'Gara was clear for all to see in November when he led Ireland to comprehensive victories over Australia and South Africa.
O'Gara controlled the two games with a confident authority and his performances at Lansdowne Road were widely regarded as his best in a seven-year international career.
On that form, O'Driscoll believes only New Zealand's fly-half genius Dan Carter would be selected ahead of him in a World XV.
"Ronan has been a huge player for Ireland and Munster for a number of years but he's really improved in the last 12 months," said O'Driscoll.
"He was a fantastic player but now he's a truly world-class player.
"He's sheer class and is probably the second-best number 10 in the world, the way he can control games and run back-lines, and keep his forwards on the front foot.
"There are very few players who have such a cool head under pressure when push comes to shove."
Ireland will need O'Gara on that kind of form this weekend when he returns to the Millennium Stadium, this time to face Wales.
It was in Cardiff two years ago that Ireland's title hopes were sunk as Wales clinched a famous Grand Slam.
O'Driscoll's side had entered that year's championship as favourites only to blow their chance with defeats at home to France and then away in Cardiff.
Afterwards, O'Driscoll described it as a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
But Ireland, under Eddie O'Sullivan, have worked themselves back into a position where they have another chance and O'Driscoll is determined not to waste it.
I would like to think we are a big enough and mentally strong enough team to deal with being favourites," he said.
"Hopefully we will learn from two years ago when we were named favourites and didn't achieve what we set out to do."
O'Driscoll believes a new-look England, now captained by Phil Vickery, could be toughest rivals this year.
The game at Croke Park, with all the political history attached to it, promises to be a thrilling, passionate occasion. In the final shake-up, it could prove to be the decisive match of the tournament.
"I anticipate that they'll go from strength to strength now Brian Ashton has taken over," added O'Driscoll.
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