Rob Kearney stated in the wake of the 22-24 loss to New Zealand that Ireland can defeat the best teams in the world.
A pulsating clash in Dublin had the All Blacks trailing 19-0 in the first half after Kearney's breakaway score followed tries from Conor Murray and Rory Best.
Playing with an intensity that was missing in their 15-32 defeat to Australia, Kearney insisted that the belief that Ireland can compete with the world's best was not just all talk, following their agonising loss to the world champions.
"When we tell you that when we play our best rugby we can beat any team in the world, that's not a party-line that we trot out, that's what we genuinely believe," said Kearney.
"We played well today for 50 to 60 minutes, and we probably could have done a little bit more at the end.
"I haven't learned a huge amount from that 80 minutes: I know what we can do as a team when we fulfil our potential.
"I know we can beat the best teams in the world, and we came pretty close on Sunday."
Ireland lost a Test series 3-0 to New Zealand last year in the Southern Hemisphere, the third Test by a scoreline of 60-0, but were transformed in Dublin - highlighting Sunday's level of performance as a benchmark.
"It enhances the next time we do play them; it will heighten our belief a bit more," added Kearney.
"We weren't there mentally last week. But the margins in these games are tiny. Look at the stark contrast between New Zealand Tests two and three last season.
"We're not going to get to that level every week, but we've got to be coming pretty close to it.
"And anything nearing last week will simply not be good enough."
Kearney refused to criticise Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton for his missed penalty with time running out that would have given the hosts an eight-point lead, with his miss keeping the All Blacks within seven points before Ryan Crotty's converted try with time up on the clock.
"If we got that penalty, it's an eight-point game and difficult to come back," acknowledged Kearney.
"It was a lifeline for them. But obviously as players we will never, ever criticise our kickers, because they have the hardest job of all.
"And it was a massive pressure kick for him, and he was carrying a bit of a knock too.
"Had he got that kick it might have been different, and it was a lifeline for them. But despite missing the kick we should still have come through with the result."