Ireland need a statement win to frank progress under Andy Farrell, says Bernard Jackman.
The head coach has overseen 12 games since taking over from Joe Schmidt at the end of 2019, with seven wins and five defeats to his name.
That sequence of results, which includes home wins over Scotland and Wales and home and away losses to France, constitutes a fairly average return and while the win against Italy last weekend was Farrell's first away win, it doesn’t by itself signal a marked improvement.
Victory in one of their remaining two Guinness Six Nation fixtures, against a Scotland side still in championship contention, away on 14 March, and against England in Dublin six days later would mark progress, says the former Ireland hooker.
"Ireland need to beat Scotland or England to get that big win for the team because they haven't had it yet, realistically," Jackman told the RTÉ Rugby podcast.
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"We’ve beaten a poor Scottish team and a poor Welsh team in Dublin last year, but we need a [big] win.
"They needed [the win over Italy]. It came at the right time.
"They needed a win to validate what they are doing to give them that feel-good factor but Scotland, with Steve Tandy coaching their defence, it’s a different matter.
"We’ll be tested defensively against them.
"In the next two games we’ll find out if this new attacking framework can handle a team with line speed and good line integrity, which Italy didn’t have.
"It was about par. I think the Irish players nearly talked it up too much.
"I looked back at what England and France said about putting Italy to the sword and they weren’t talking about it as if it was a talismanic moment in their journey.
"It’s a given to get a bonus point against Italy. We did it and the challenge now is to beat Scotland or England."
Follow Munster v Connacht (7.35pm, Friday) and Ulster v Leinster (7.35pm, Saturday) via our live blogs on RTE.ie and the RTÉ News app or listen live on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra and RTÉ Radio 1.
Follow Scotland v Ireland (kick-off 3pm, Sunday 14 March) via our live blog on RTE.ie and the RTÉ News app or listen live on RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Sport. Highlights on Against the Head on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.