We must use this as springboard for Six Nations: Schmidt
COACH Joe Schmidt set Ireland's heroic 24-22 defeat by New Zealand as "the benchmark" for the 2014 Six Nations.
"A draw was as good as a loss to us today. We haven't won in 108 years of trying against those guys," he issued.
"There was a draw before. We didn't want to do what had been done before."
This was always the standout fixture for Ireland from the moment the Autumn series was announced.
"It was given priority from day one in camp. From the four weeks, I suppose an insight is that the first Monday we got together we looked at the All Blacks," he said.
"We had – it is probably credit to them – we had looked at the game with them as the one we had to be up for and part of our preparation was aimed at them right from the very beginning.
"If we can benchmark that and get back somewhere close to it then we are going to be competitive and that's where we want to be."
There was definite progression in the aggression with which Ireland assaulted the breakdown, applied line speed in defence and clear thinking to their attack.
"I feel the players know a little bit more about where we're looking to get to," he said.
"I think we showed a little bit of structure attack-wise and defensively today. And we certainly showed a lot of character.
"I would say to push the best team in the world – the best team that's been in the world probably for the last few years – as close as we did, while devastating is a small vote of confidence for us."
The transformation in intensity and accuracy is reflected in how the players were beginning to get a feel for where they should be and what they have to do.
"I think part of that intensity comes from desire and confidence and clarity," said Schmidt.
"I think it's easier to be intense when you know where you're going and you know what your job is, because then you can get stuck into your role.
"I think it's hard to be intense when you're not sure: 'Do I go here or do I go here?' And as soon as you over-think then I think you get yourself into trouble."
Of course, captain Paul O'Connell has been here before at the final whistle of a tortuously close call against New Zealand, a big 'one-off' push with the consistency to follow.
"We've done it before over the last two or three years. We've produced these real big performances full of the accuracy we talked about and full of the intensity we talked about.
"And we haven't followed it up. I think the onus falls on the players to maintain that standard."
The pre-plan to stretch the squad certainly looks like good judgment given hooker Rory Best (possible broken arm), Brian O'Driscoll (suspected concussion/stinger) and Jonathan Sexton (hamstring) were forced off yesterday.