Warren Gatland has promised to take Wales to new heights at the Rugby World Cup after signing off his final Six Nations campaign in charge with a historic third Grand Slam.
A try after 70 seconds by Hadleigh Parkes and 20 points from the boot of Gareth Anscombe gave Wales an emphatic 25-7 victory against an under-par Ireland team, a victory that means Gatland is the first coach to win three Grand Slams. Not only did Wales depose Ireland as champions, but they will move up to second in World Rugby's rankings behind the All Blacks.
Gatland, however, insists Wales will enter the World Cup in Japan unburdened by any external expectation. "I don't think [our ranking] makes any difference to us," Gatland said. "We've just kept our heads down, we'll work hard. This group of players will run through a brick wall for you.
"The younger players have come through with no fear and shown real character. In our pool, if you win, you potentially don't face the Southern Hemisphere sides on the way through. With a bit of luck, hopefully we don't pick up too many injuries.
"I'm excited for the World Cup because you get two or three months together and you can prepare like a club side. You can go into a lot of skill development and really finetune your game. From that point of view, we'll be in great shape. In our previous two World Cups, we were one of the fittest teams. We'll be in good shape for this as well."
The victory, built on a stifling physicality and suffocating defence, extends Wales' winning run to 14 games. Captain Alun Wyn Jones was again at the heart of the performance and says they are happy to embrace their role as one of the favourites for the World Cup.
"Belief is something you have to earn and we are doing that," Jones, who became just the sixth player to have won three Grand Slams, said. "We have put a big target on our back for a lot of other teams and you have to be comfortable with the pressure that comes with that."
Gatland has yet to confirm his plans after the World Cup, but has been linked as a possible successor to England head coach Eddie Jones. Gatland could not resist sniping back at Jones, who this week had questioned whether Wales were too tired to complete a Grand Slam.
"It was a fantastic performance, we didn't look too tired did we?" said Gatland. "We spoke beforehand about the players playing for themselves, their families and the fans and being able to create a bit of history. You can never take that away from them now.
During the trophy presentation, the New Zealander appeared emotional in his final competitive game at the Principality Stadium after an 11-year tenure as Wales head coach. He hopes that he has left a legacy that his successor, Wayne Pivac, can build upon.
"I am pretty proud of what this coaching and management team have achieved," Gatland said. "It's pretty special. Sitting somewhere next year watching the Six Nations, it'll be something I miss.
"But having been involved here so long, I just hope they can continue what we've done in the last 10 or 12 years in terms of putting some respectability back in that jersey."