Irish earn right to dream of title after convincing win over Wales
Warburton concedes his men in red were simply outplayed by a ‘fantastic’ Ireland team
Ireland ended Welsh dreams of a record third Six Nations title in a row, with a clinical 26-3 home win at Dublin's Lansdowne Road.
Warren Gatland's men simply never got close to the hosts, who tactically outmanoeuvred the men in red.
Ireland have not begun a Six Nations with back-to-back victories since the Grand Slam year of 2009, but this convincing result, following on from their 28-6 opening win over Scotland, will have Joe Schmidt's side dreaming of emulating that campaign.
"Well it always helps to have the first two games at home and we would be disappointed not to have four points," said Ireland's outstanding captain Paul O'Connell, who returned after withdrawing from his team's opener due to a chest infection.
"Still, it puts us in great heart for what will be a tremendous challenge against England at Twickenham in a fortnight."
Jonny Sexton's boot dominated the game, but the performances of Peter O'Mahony, O'Connell, Andrew Trimble and Rob Kearney will give England boss Stuart Lancaster plenty to ponder ahead of the clash at Twickenham in two weeks.
"It was a very disciplined performance," said O'Connell. "We were excellent all round, but from now on it gets a lot harder."
Wales captain Sam Warburton was gracious in defeat. "We were definitely outplayed, full credit to Ireland they were fantastic really," he said.
"Now it will be a real test of character for us to pull ourselves together for the France match in two weeks time."
Ireland were the only team to beat Wales in 11 Six Nations clashes. The hype surrounding this game was not about the theme of Welsh revenge, though, but an altogether different grudge match, pitting the "cold-hearted" British and Irish Lions boss Gatland against O'Driscoll, the man he scorned last summer by dropping him for the final test against Australia last summer.
The real edge to this game, though, was that the victors could automatically become title favourites.
Ireland finished the first half 13-0 in the lead, their only try coming from Chris Henry, who bundled over the line for his first international try.
In the second period, Welsh prop Rhodri Jones had a try disallowed for a double movement in the build up, before Ireland substitute Paddy Jackson, on the field for only four minutes, scored the hosts' second try on the 78-minute mark.