Ireland 26 Italy 16
Brian O'Driscoll and Eddie O'Sullivan have united in demanding a vast improvement against France, but have managed to take some comfort from Saturday's Lansdowne Road horror show.
Ireland kicked off their RBS Six Nations campaign with victory over Italy but it was a dismal performance which has shattered the air of optimism shrouding the national side.
A daunting trip to Paris is their next appointment and they must produce a significant improvement if they are to escape a heavy defeat on Saturday.
While skipper O'Driscoll warns more of the same will lead to ruin in the French capital, he insists Italy's commitment ensured the match was always going to be a war of attrition.
"If we go out and play like that when we play France, we'll be in serious trouble," he said.
"Italy are a hard side who played well. We didn't play well but managed to grind out a win. There will always be games like that.
"Six Nations Champion-ship rugby is always difficult, whether you're playing France, Italy or England.
"I'm an eternal optimist and I'll try to take the positives out of this result."
Italy's aggressive defence, especially in midfield where Mirco Bergamasco and Gonzalo Canale caused havoc with a raft of big hits, clearly rattled the Irish.
The Italians closed down the space so effectively that Ronan O'Gara's crossfield kicks to the wing were the only successful avenue of attack.
O'Sullivan has demanded more penetration against France and the Ireland coach suspects that will come against a side which likes to put as much width on the ball as possible.
"France will be a different game. If we don't get over the gainline, we'll be in trouble," he said.
"Having said that, France will throw the ball around and it will be a more open game. That will suit us. Italy controlled the pace of the game, slowing it down.
"Next week won't be so stop-start, it will be a lot live-lier. We'll have to set out our stall and get a platform to run off."
Accusations of biting took some of the shine off Italy's stirring performance, with flanker Simon Easterby finishing the match with a wound to his arm.
O'Sullivan claimed Easterby had been bitten by an Italian player, who has been identified but not publicly, while match commissioner Rob Flockhart has launched an investigation into the incident.
But complaints were made by both camps with Azzurri coach Pierre Berbizier drawing attention to an alleged stamp by O'Driscoll on hooker Fabio Ongaro.
Whatever action Flockhart decides to take, the biggest injustice of the match will go unpunished, with Italy justifiably criticising referee David Pearson's failure to consult the television match official on Ireland's second try.
A superb piece of defensive work from Mauro Bergamasco prevented Tommy Bowe from grounding the ball after the Ulster winger had caught O'Gara's kick and dived over the line.
But, to the puzzlement of nearly everyone at Lansdowne Road, Pearson awarded the try immediately without seeking a second opinion and Ireland opened an 18-10 lead.
Although Italy stuck to their task, the pendulum had swung decisively in Ireland's favour, with O'Gara's boot then keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
The first half finished 10-10 with Mirco Bergamasco and Jerry Flannery crossing for tries and if Italy can prove Saturday's effort was not a one-off, they have a great chance of avoiding the wooden spoon.
"Pace made a big difference to us. We lost the ball sometimes and conceded too many passes, but we were competitive for 80 minutes and could have won the game," said Berbizier.
"I have to thank the players and especially Marco Bortolami, because he had fever and a 40-degree temperature over the last few days but still played.
"Now we have to think about next week when we face England. They are very strong but we want to challenge them in the same way we challenged Ireland.
"We want to leave the Stadio Flaminio in the same manner we left Lansdowne Road - with our heads held high."
O'Driscoll who, along with centre partner Gordon D'Arcy, was tackled out of the game, believes Italy are a team on the up.
"Italy have improved, particularly in their defence which was very impressive," he said.
"They closed down our options and we had to think laterally, hence Tommy's try. They are a team improving year by year. Their players want to impress the new coach and cement their place in the side."