He didn't quite bristle at the suggestion but when it was put to him that Ireland ticked a lot of boxes against Tonga, Andy Farrell was quick to point out that his side are not into box-ticking exercises.

"It was a bit more than that," he told RTÉ Sport.

"We're not into ticking boxes. We would like to see and judge ourselves on how we've prepared for a tough game which it was always going to be against a Tongan side that was raring to go with the quality they've got and the quality coaching staff.

"I thought we handled the game and the opponent extremely well.

"Even when things weren't going too well for us, as in errors, I thought territory-wise, we controlled the game really well. Once we got a couple of scores up, we flowed nicely and controlled the game throughout."

But on that checklist would be five points, a relatively clean bill of health, game-time for more squad players, an almost perfect lineout return (91%, they lost just two of 23), and just one try conceded in the 59-17 victory and a reminder of how good this team, unbeaten now in 15 games, can be.

Farrell might also take a positive from the rarest of rare things: a sin-binning for his team. Peter O'Mahony getting on the wrong side of the ref one too many times just before half-time.

Ireland's stunning run of 12 games without a warning was always going to come to an end at some point so no harm in getting a little practice before the contests ramp up a notch. But that is being greedy really.

Vaea Fifita eventually broke down the wall but, unlike against Romania, Ireland's defence had to deal with a goal-line siege.

"It shows the fight and the want and what it means to the lads to keep them out, even in those type of situations when we are trying to show what it means to us to defend our own line," said Farrell.

Beyond the numbers, an attack that carried for 850 metres, beat 35 defenders and got five offloads away, the team got as close to the France performance back in February as we have seen. They flowed.

There will be talk of 13 penalties conceded but there's always an element of 'moneyball' about that stat.

When, where, how many in quick succession, how many are to stop probable tries?

Thirteen is still a few too many but context, as usual, is key.

For the second week running, Ireland scored with the last play of the game.

This team is fighting fit and Farrell knows it. Tonga scored 10 points in a row either side of the break and were 18 behind when the main men were withdrawn.

The entire bench was emptied by the 55th minute (with Tadhg Furlong having to come back on for Finlay Bealham after a head injury) because Farrell knew his side had the stamina advantage in the closing quarter.

"We feel great," said Conor Murray, who has given Farrell some serious food for thought about who plays scrum-half next weekend.

"Going back to the pre-season we had, it was great. We feel fit. Most of the lads are in unbelievable nick.

"Jason Cowman [athletic performance coach] and Ciaran Ruddock [strength and conditioning coach] and all the staff throughout pre-season... we had an awesome pre-season because we knew these conditions were going to come.

"With the 37 degrees last week, even tonight with the humidity and the heat, it was a tough challenge.

"Getting used to that with all sorts of training with saunas and all that during pre-season has us in great condition for this type of stuff.

"We have done it and we believe we have done it for the right reasons. Physically we feel great."

They appear to have found their ideal fighting weight but player-management and the blend of the squad plays its part too.

Eleven of the starters on Saturday in Nantes are in the 27-34 age-bracket: Andrew Porter, Bundee Aki, Murray, Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan, James Lowe, James Ryan, Josh van der Flier, Peter O'Mahony, Tadhg Beirne and Furlong.

"Yeah, I think we've a great blend," said Ross Byrne, who made his World Cup debut off the bench for Sexton at half-time.

"There is all those [older] lads... with unbelievable experience but then there is a big group of lads who are just under the 30 mark who have gained a serious amount of experience in the last few years, whether that is internationally or at club level and I think across the board, the team is in a growth period, or a good age."

The eight tries scored on Saturday night plus 12 from the Romania match make Ireland the top-try scorers after two rounds. Add clinical to that list.

Robbie Henshaw, who ran hard and fast as a replacement to ease any concerns over a troubling hamstring issue, was pleased.

"Yeah, listen, it was good in parts," said the Leinster centre.

"We scored some nice tries. We'll pick it apart. There will still be some areas that we can look at and say 'We could have done better.'

"But all in all, good to get some nice tries. It was a patchy enough kind of start. It took us a bit to get going, but when we did, we found our feet."

If a job is worth doing, the saying goes, then it's worth doing well and Farrell brushed off talk that his selection - in the wake of Wales and France struggling with mix and match outfits - was "vindicated".

"I understand why people have an opinion but we make calculated decisions based on the facts that we’ve got and what’s best for our team," he said.

"The right thing for our team is to get that little bit of continuity, get more game time and get the job done and get people off at the right time etc."

All the talk now turns to South Africa. We'll have a full five-day build-up to a match that was fixed almost three years ago.

"Well, we’re not ready quite yet but we certainly will be," said Farrell.

"It’s something that we’ve talked about quite a bit, with the opponents that we knew we were going to face, best-laid plans and all that.

"It’s been pretty good so far. We’ll take that a step further this week and get [things] in place as soon as we possibly can, which is something we’re doing very well at this moment in time."

Henshaw has faced South Africa seven times in his career, three of which came in the Lions tour two years ago. He's beaten them four times.

"I think if you look at them, they are the world champions, renowned for their physicality, their power game, and they’ve bred a lot of new backs that are rapid on the edges and have serious skillsets," he said.

"So it’s going to be another two gears, two levels up, we are going to have to be at our best.

"It’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere and game. And thanks to all the supporters who were here this week and last week, it made it so special and I’d imagine next week is going to be ten times better."

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