Six Nations 2012: Ireland’s O’Connell targets win over Wales

Paul O'Connell is convinced Ireland can win the Six Nations but believes victory over Wales on Sunday is key to their success

Paul O’Connell has stressed the importance of beating Wales in Dublin if Ireland want to be crowned Six Nations champions for the first time since 2009.

O’Connell will captain the Irish for just the sixth time on Sunday in the absence of Brian O’Driscoll, who is recovering from a shoulder injury and will miss the entire six weeks of the competition.

“We have to produce a big performance in that first game against Wales,” O’Connell told RTE Sport.

“We’re capable of winning it. When we’ve won it in the past we’ve taken one game at a time and that’s what we’ll do this time again.

“Put all our focus on the Welsh game and whatever happens after that happens.”

The Munster skipper admits the rivalry between the two nations has intensified following their 22-10 defeat by the Welsh in the World Cup quarter-finals last October.

“The Ireland-Wales rivalry is becoming quite big,” he said. “We play each other so often in the Heineken Cup with the various provinces and regions and having played them in the World Cup as well it certainly adds to the rivalry.”

“For us, the World Cup bears little relevance but it does stop us from looking beyond that game having been beaten by them in the World Cup quarter-final, we know a big part of our competition rests on this game.”

O’Connell expects Ireland to put together a strong campaign as Declan O’Kidney’s side look to win the Grand Slam title for the second time since the Six Nations began in 2000.

And the 32-year-old pointed to the performances of Leinster, Munster and Ulster in the Heineken Cup – all three are in the quarter-finals – as a reason to be confident heading into the Six Nations.

“There is a lot of confidence in the squad,” he added. “Guys are winning big games now and performing well in big games and that’s what you want.

“You want a lot of guys coming into the competition with form from the Heineken Cup and I think that is what we have.”

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