When Nigel Owens blew the final whistle on Saturday 5 September the scoreboard was illuminated with the words England 21 Ireland 13. With just 13 days to go before the Rugby World Cup England had delivered the victory required and had done so with a performance that stamped their authority on Twickenham Stadium. The home side's message to Ireland and indeed the rest of the rugby world was clear; this our home, this is our patch and we are ready for this tournament.
As the stadium filled, a little over eighty minutes earlier, you could feel the apprehension in the air - the usual match day buzz was more fractious than normal following the Parisian performance and the pressure resting on the shoulders of England was almost tangible.
The tone for the Test match was set by Chris Robshaw when he charged into Simon Zebo and 'sat him down' off the opening kick off. Chris continued to do this off every single restart for the entire fixture and across the park he led by example, as the great Captains do. Chris was part of a back row unit that worked themselves into the ground, together with Tom Wood he made 38 tackles and Ben Morgan certainly silenced his pre-match critics with a purposeful display.
The major facets that were poor in France were corrected and all made a discernible difference to England's output. England were reformed when it came to their discipline, in 80 minutes of work they gave away just 6 penalties whereas in Paris they conceded 7 were in the opening half alone. The breakdowns were contested with considered and appropriate intensity instead of over zealous and wanton enthusiasm and a shaky lineout turned into a strong one. The scrummage wasn't pristine, however it certainly provided enough of a platform for England's backs to work from - something that was sorely lacking in Paris.
Out the back England enjoyed themselves and it all started from the performance of George Ford. The Fly Half handled the augmented pressure on him like a man ten years older and looked back to his effortless best orchestrating proceedings from the middle. His pinpoint cross field kick to Anthony Watson was his most obvious contribution however there were many more examples of his vision and distribution and I believe he will start against Fiji. Outside of Ford the new centre partnership caused little to be concerned about, instead Barritt and Joseph looked comfortable together and gelled well on their first Test outing.
Prior to last night Jonny May, may not have had a starting jersey with his name inked on it however after such a dynamic and impressive performance I don't believe that England can start without him. This is a big statement for I haven't always been his greatest fan however the Gloucester man has worked extremely hard since being dropped in the 6 Nations and now offers the full package. May's pace remains outstanding, however he now is delivering it off a visibly more muscular frame and one that enables him to be more confident and aggressive defensively. Alongside Watson and Brown England's back three handled Ireland's aerial challenge with expertise and endlessly asked questions of their opponents on the counter.
It was the performance that England required at the most pressured and important of times and it is testament to their emotional strength that they handled the situation so well. Clearly, chances were missed and scrums were lost however when it came down to it Chris Robshaw and his team stepped up to the mark and silenced their doubters.
The baton is now handed back over to Stuart Lancaster to ensure that he nails the selection decisions for Fiji, his words in the post match pressure conference 'we have no injury concerns' are a blessing following such an intense Test match. It was the lift that the squad, and indeed, the nation needed and I believe that England Rugby will now feel ready for whatever is going to be thrown at them this autumn.