Six Nations: Wales expectations are high - Sam Warburton

Captain Sam Warburton admits Wales fans will be expecting big things of the national team in the Six Nations.

Wales face Ireland in their opening game on 5 February after finishing fourth at last year's World Cup.

But Warburton is confident Wales can deal with the pressure placed upon them by an expectant public.

"They're expecting pretty big things," he said. "I was walking past the Millennium Stadium the other day and noticed the French game was sold out."

He added: "That's the last game of the tournament so to me that means people are anticipating that could be a Championship game.

"I think that's the expectation from the fans and we expect that as well and we'll put that pressure among ourselves."

Warburton, who was appointed captain for last autumn's World Cup, believes Wales will draw on their experience in New Zealand during the Six Nations.

Wales' preparations for that competition included two separate training camps in Poland last summer and they have returned to the country for a pre-Six Nations camp.

"As a group of players at the World Cup we were pretty good at staying away from the hype outside our training camp and ignoring what's going on the papers and what the press say," said the Cardiff Blues player.

"I think we did a good job of that in the World Cup. We managed to focus on the performance.

"I'm sure it will be the same thing this campaign as well and that will be our main priority.

"It's my third campaign now and I haven't had a Championship [title] win.

"I've spoken to senior players who have been involved in Grand Slams and Championship and they say it's fantastic. I'd love to experience that.

"If I'd put money on who was going to win it as a neutral I think it would be quite difficult to say.

"It's wide open which is why it makes it a great tournament this year. There's a lot of teams on a level playing field. I feel It will be an exciting one to watch for the public I'm sure."

Warburton says a good start against Ireland is essential as Wales seek their first Championship title since Warren Gatland's first campaign in charge in 2008.

Gatland's side have beaten Ireland in their previous two meetings but Warburton is well aware Wales lost the last time they travelled to Dublin in 2010.

"We remember we went out there two years ago and they beat us very well," said Warburton. "We were very disappointed with that.

"It's a massive game for us because if we could get a result out there it tees us up for four remaining games, three of which are at home.

"That's why a lot rides on that first game against Ireland. They've enjoyed playing against us as much as we've enjoyed playing against them.

"I know Dan [Lydiate] and Toby [Faletau] as well as myself think very highly of the Irish back-row.

"All of them as a unit and individuals are great players and are up there with the best in the world. It's a very tasty battle with the back-rows and it's one I'm really looking forward to."

A notable absentee from the Welsh squad for this season's Championship is wing Shane Williams, who bowed out of international rugby last December.

Although acknowledging Wales will miss the Ospreys player, Warburton says Wales have capable players to take his place.

"Of course I'd love it if Shane would have one more Six Nations," said Warburton.

"But everyone respects his decision to retire and you've got to call it a day some time otherwise you go on forever. [They're] massive boots to fill.

"But I think George [North] has done a job on the left wing a few times for us before and done very well.

"And we've got some good cover on the back three. Lee Byrne has been playing very well in France, Leigh Halfpenny's been exceptional for the Blues.

"So I think we're in quite a good situation when it comes to the backline. We've got some strength in depth there."

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