Irish rugby fans were in the unusual position of feeling sympathy for their Welsh cousins during the early days of this tournament. Warren Gatland's side - possibly through over training - were shorn of player after player against England, Fiji and then Australia.
Ireland found themselves in a similar position against France on Sunday as big names one after the other - Sexton, O'Connell, O'Mahony - were forced from the pitch.
Description of the game as attritional would certainly be an undersell.
Admirably, the squad dug deep, putting in a supreme second half effort - led by Sean O'Brien, though Joe Schmidt may yet be relieved of the Leinster back row's services due to his pugilistic encounter with Pascal Papé.
It will be little consolation to O'Brien that Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian feels Papé will not want another shot at the Tullow Tank.
Ireland flirted with their passions, too, and almost certainly will miss the services of their otherwise outstanding servant here, Sean O’Brien, spotted in the first half (but not by the referee) sinking a right hand deep into the belly of Pascal Pape, who fell like a visiting heavyweight.
The air hung heavy with irony towards the end when the Leinster flanker was announced as man of the match. If “Rocky” O’Brien escapes a citing, M Pape will probably not want a rematch.
Mark Reason of Stuff.co.nz was impressed with Ireland and his fellow Kiwi Joe Schmidt's performance. Though he thought Nigel Owens somewhat charitable to Ireland in the first half.
Bit by bit Ireland took France apart. It was another coaching masterclass from Joe Schmidt and the New Zealander has given his countrymen a blueprint on how to beat France.
It was close for a while and Ireland certainly had much the better of the calls from Nigel Owens who still doesn't seem to understand what constitutes a knock-on. His mistakes arguably cost France 10 points in the first half, one a penalty to Ireland for offside, another when Wesley Fofana was storming through off a lineout tap that was called back.
Ian Madigan's hair was singled out by Reason by particular attention.
...Ian Madigan came on, with an improbable haircut that seemed permed from the Incredibles
The New Zealand Herald's Patrick McKendry feels Joe Schmidt has turned us into a 'tough and combative' side.
The Irish, playing in front of a crowd of 72,000, most of whom seemed to be dressed in green, thoroughly deserved their victory. New Zealand-born coach Joe Schmidt has turned them into a tough and combative outfit who are extremely well organised on defence...
...In the end the match was played out to the strains of Fields of Athenry and this really did seem like a home match for Ireland. Will they miss O'Connor, O'Mahony et al against a tough Pumas team? Possibly, but their supporters will enjoy this victory - their first World Cup win over France in four times of trying - for a long while.
Also in the New Zealand Herald, ex-All Black Justin Marshall opines that there would be less motivation for the reigning World Cup holders if they were playing Ireland rather than France this coming weekend.
But if we were playing Ireland I don't think that edge would be there. After all, they never beaten the All Blacks. But you can bet the All Blacks will be on edge ahead of the France match. During the week and in the changing room beforehand they will be focused and fired up, ready to right the so-called wrongs of the past.
After, in many respects, cruising through their pool, the All Blacks need this match to harden them up.
For Gavin Rich of SuperSport, Sunday's Ireland was a completely different proposition to side which took on Italy the previous week.
So Ireland, with this five-star performance, have not only maintained their recent winning edge over their fierce rivals, but have also ensured they have an extra day to recover from the match as well as securing the easier passage to the semifinals.
You wouldn’t have said so a week ago when they struggled against Italy in London, but then maybe those critics who suggested that Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was keeping some of his moves under wraps ahead of this encounter were right.
Certainly it was a different, more intensely focused and more multi-dimensional Irish team that played on Sunday, with the Irish forward play being matched by a more incisive display from their backs as well as impressive line-speed and aggression on defence.
BBC Sport's John Haughey was struck by Ireland's incredible willpower.
Ireland showed remarkable resolve to stand up to a hugely physical France side.
Chris Hewett for the London Independent, thought Ireland 'magnificent'.
And Ireland? They have clear view of the road to a first global semi-final, even though Argentina will pose a real and present danger this weekend. Joe Schmidt’s team were nothing short of magnificent yesterday, attacking France where they thought they were strong and prevailing in every department.
But at what cost? Three front-line players – the outside-half Jonathan Sexton, the flanker Peter O’Mahony and the revered captain Paul O’Connell – were forced off the field with what at first sight looked like tournament-ending injuries. They were given the warmest of send-offs by the crowd of more than 72,000, at least 71,999 of which were surely Irish, but there was sadness in the air. The Six Nations champions may find life terribly hard without them.
Tom Gow of the Daily Express labelled Ireland's performance as magnificent, confirming out status as the northern hemisphere's best chance of winning the tournament.
He also heaped praise Sean O'Brien, Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw.
The second and back rows were simply magnificent, with the ball and without, driving on at a frantic pace or spoiling French possession, forcing turnovers. O’Brien was particularly influential, playing right on the edge - occasionally over it - from first to last.
Iain Henderson, who played the second half in O’Connell’s place, made that blow almost painless. Schmidt had gone for Devin Toner’s lineout skills over Henderson’s supreme athleticism, but that was exactly what established Ireland’s dominance in the second half.
Robbie Henshaw was the master of the midfield, eclipsing France’s much-vaunted pairing of Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastareaud, the giant centre he swept around to set up Ireland’s first try, 10 minutes into the second half.
Rugby World was impressed with Ian Madigan's substitute performance.
There have been plenty of question marks about whether Madigan can guide Ireland from fly-half but he answered many of them here. He is not the same type of player as Johnny Sexton and Ireland may lack some of the older man’s control and game sense with Madigan at ten, but he brings a spark to the back-line. He has a superb range of passes, jinked round defenders with his footwork and tested the France with chip kicks over the top as he played very flat.
The Daily Mail's Matt Lawton suggested that France realised on Sunday that Ireland are about more than just Johnny Sexton.
But the French discovered to their cost yesterday that the Irish are not a one-man team. Far from it, in fact, given how impressively they overcame the loss of three of their most influential players and yet still condemned their Gallic opponents to a quarter-final date with New Zealand...
...Here, under a Millennium Stadium roof almost lifted off its rafters by 35,000 fans in green, the Irish were magnificent, the manner in which they responded to the loss of such key individuals not only a measure of their character but the class Joe Schmidt possesses in his squad.
Brett McKay for Australian website The Roar.
I had Ireland as something of a dark horse for the semis pre-tournament, and my thoughts that things were aligning nicely for Ireland’s best chance at lifting the Webb Ellis trophy were certainly not mine alone.
How they can emerge from this sudden injury crisis over the next week or so will certainly give cause for those thoughts to be reassessed, however.
But Ireland do have the game to go forward, and their improvement under Joe Schmidt to claim successive Six Nations titles is being mirrored by Michael Cheika’s Wallabies in 2015. For one thing, Ireland under Schmidt remain unbeaten against France in three encounters now, while their record against quarter final opponent Argentina is also unblemished in two starts.
h/t Eoin Lynch
Picture credit: Sportsfile