Johnny Sexton says he has never been more confident that Ireland are moving in the right direction.
Ireland dominated Italy in a 48-10 Six Nations win after suffering consecutive defeats by Wales and France.
“We’ve come in for some flack over the last couple of weeks,” said captain Sexton, who kicked 18 points in Rome.
“But internally as a group I don’t think we’ve ever been more confident about where we’re going or what we can produce.”
Sexton added: “I mean that properly, with the coaches we are with, the leadership group coming out of their shells, I think this group is on the right trajectory.”
Ireland scored six tries in a comfortable victory having scored just one in each of their past two matches.
Leinster trio Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan and Will Connors scored first half tries before Johan Meyer crossed for Italy on the stroke of half-time.
CJ Stander, Keith Earls and another Connors try completed a thoroughly satisfactory day’s work for Ireland.
“The boys have worked incredibly hard over the last four or five weeks,” said Sexton.
“We’ve been incredibly frustrated that we didn’t get the results that we felt we deserved.”
‘We showed glimpses of what we have been working on’
Having failed to sparkle in attack against Wales or France, the pressure was on Ireland to exhibit some attacking flair that head coach Andy Farrell said he wanted to produce.
Against a poor Italian defence, Ireland were rampant and despite the opposition they delivered easily their most accomplished performance.
“If you think about the Wales game, we played with 14 men so we’d like to think we’d have played like [how we played against Italy] in that game,” said Sexton, who missed the France defeat because of a head injury.
“We were a bit frustrated after the French game in terms of things we talked about during the week we didn’t deliver on.
“That was the frustrating part and we probably look back with regret in terms of we didn’t play to our potential and we didn’t execute the gameplan as best we could.
“Each game is different and today was the accumulation of both weeks coming together a little bit but it doesn’t mean everything’s fixed now.”
After next week’s break, Ireland will travel to Murrayfield to face Scotland before concluding their campaign at home to England.
Although the title is likely now out of reach, finishing with three wins would give Ireland and indeed Farrell a strong platform to build on.
“It’s still all to do,” reflected Sexton.
“If we get a couple of results in our last couple of games it can be an OK championship, it’ll be one that ‘what might have been’, but we want to finish on a high, that’s what we said after the French game.
“We got it today and we just want to enjoy today, we’ll learn some things from our performance – what kept them in the game in terms of our discipline and we definitely can’t do that over at Murrayfield.
“Our intent, our concentration and how clinical we were at time was very pleasing.
“The stuff that we’ve been taught and have been learning in training finally came out in glimpses today so I’m happy for everyone.”