Joe Schmidt hailed the “class and courage” of man of the moment Brian O’Driscoll after Ireland’s win over Italy.

The head coach, who will lead Ireland to Paris next week knowing a win will surely secure the Six Nations title, was full of praise for the man who played his last home game for Ireland and earned a record-breaking 140th international cap.

Schmidt told RTÉ Sport: “For Drico today, that was unbelievably good. No one left the stadium, fantastic applause for a man who massively deserves it so for him, for the team, we’d love to go to Paris next week and get something.

“I thought he was class, I think in the modern day of the big, powerful, direct-running centre, he still showed that courage and class can still take you a long way and I thought he had a hand in three tries and it was a pretty important hand in all of them.”

"Fairytales do come true sometimes"

Asked about the challenge facing the team in France next week, the New Zealander said sarcastically: “Well, we’ve made a habit of doing it – once in the last 42 years – so it’s certainly going to be a massive task but fairytales do come true sometimes.

“I just get nervous to be honest. It’s exciting for people spectating and that’s exactly what we want to have. We want them to be excited, we want them to have expectation and we want to try our best to deliver on that expectation.”

Ireland sit on top of the table with six points but have a huge points-difference advantage, helped by the 39-point winning margin against Italy.

“It took a long time to break them down, they’re a combative unit and I think that they gave us nothing, especially in that first half,” said Schmidt after the 46-7 win.

“I felt we got into really good scoring positions, didn’t make the most of them and then we felt that we would break them down if we kept that pressure on and I think it’s a credit to the players who started and started to turn the screw, and the players who came on and really added value and we got what we were good for.” 

Meanwhile, the former Leinster coach confirmed to RTÉ Sport that he expects Conor Murray to be fit for next weekend, despite being withdrawn after just 17 minutes of the game against Italy.

"I think Conor Murray just fell a bit awkwardly after going for a high ball, just caught one in the ribs but there’s no problem there as far as anything longer than bit of bruising is concerned, so apart from that I don’t think there’s too much trouble,” Schmidt said.