Paul O'Connell laid down the gauntlet to those wishing to lead the British & Irish Lions into battle against the reigning world champions next year as he steered Munster to a second victory in three years in the Heineken Cup.
Amid amazing scenes at the Millennium Stadium, O'Connell ensured that Munster coach Declan Kidney got the perfect send-off before taking up the Irish coaching reigns with a 16-13 victory over Toulouse.
Lions Test lock O'Connell, who missed all his side's Pool matches through injury, produced a powerhouse performance as the top two teams in European rugby history went head-to-head at a packed Millennium Stadium.
"Up front it was a war, a great game to win from a forwards point of view," said O'Connell.
"We took the game by the scruff of the neck and shut it out - we worked our socks off and for pure heart it was right up there with the best.
"Everyone is delighted to see coach Declan Kidney getting what he deserves. It was a great reward for what he has done for Munster.
"Our support from our fantastic fans was hugely important. You want to bring as much emotion as you can to lift your performance.
"The Munster fans on the street were incredible as we drove to the ground, and the atmosphere inside the Millennium Stadium was just fantastic."
O'Connell asked his vice-captain Ronan O'Gara to join him in lifting the trophy and the skipper came in for special praise from his right hand man.
"It was a huge gesture from Paul to invite me to lift the trophy with him. He said 'I'm not taking No for an answer' and then I asked him what the question was," said O'Gara, a double Lions tourist.
"He said he wanted me to lift the cup with him and I was just overwhelmed. This is the greatest day I've had in the sport.
"Paul is a huge influence in any team and is a great leader. He kept us going and made sure we held onto our lead and won the Heineken Cup for a second time." O'Gara, playing in his fourth final, kicked the winning penalty to ensure Munster were not only crowned Heineken Cup champions again, but took top spot in the new ERC European rankings for next season's tournament.