Jonathan Sexton kicked five penalties as Ireland claimed an 18-11 win over France in Dublin on Saturday.
The Irish flyhalf, who missed the last 12 weeks while recovering from concussion, produced a tactical masterclass to guide Ireland past a stubborn French outfit.
The match was marred by ill-discipline at the breakdown, but the home side played the game in the right areas, and made the French pay for any indiscretions.
Romain Taofifenua crossed in the 70th minute for the visitors as France threatened to make off with an unlikely draw. However, they were unable to find the second try and conversion that would have sealed a draw in the dying moments.
The result sets up a tantalising meeting between Ireland and England in a fortnight, with the winner of that match likely to go on and claim the championship.
Ireland – Penalties: Jonathan Sexton (5), Ian Madigan.
France – Try: Romain Taofifenua. Penalties: Camille Lopez (3).
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones
France – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Thierry Dusautoir, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Uini Atonio, 18 Vincent Debaty, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Rémi Talès, 23 Rémi Lamerat.
Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images