Six Nations: Ireland fired up for Wales encounter

By Bryn PalmerBBC Sport
Huw Bennett and Paul O'Connell
Wales knocked Ireland out of the World Cup in Wellington in October

Paul O'Connell has warned Wales that Ireland are desperate to erase the memory of their World Cup quarter-final defeat in their Six Nations opener.

The inspirational lock, who leads the Irish in Brian O'Driscoll's absence on 5 February, says October's 22-10 loss in Wellington will "focus the mind".

"That was certainly a big disappointment and hopefully we can put it right next weekend," O'Connell said.

"There is going to be no warming into it, it will be a very tough game."

Ireland's players have responded positively to their World Cup exit by helping their provinces - Leinster, Munster and Ulster - into the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup.

"It's great that we have all come into camp off successful campaigns and there is a really good atmosphere around the squad," reflected O'Connell, who will win his 83rd Ireland cap next week.

"But we won't be able to afford anything below our potential. We need to produce a massive performance.

"I suppose it was a good thing a lot of us went away from the disappointment against Wales and managed to put some good performances together.

"It gets that performance out of the system for a lot of us.

"We had a good World Cup until then and played well against Australia and Italy, but we just didn't perform to the best of our ability against Wales, certainly in that last half hour, when we conceded two soft tries to effectively hand the game to Wales, and defence is usually a strength of ours."

O'Connell, 32, who made his debut against Wales in Dublin 10 years ago, has featured in some pivotal encounters in recent years between the countries, which have cranked up their rivalry.

Wales ended a run of five defeats in the fixture when they beat Ireland to win the 2005 Grand Slam and enjoyed a crucial victory in Dublin en route to their 2008 clean sweep, while Ireland won their own Slam a year later, prevailing in a nail-biting finale in Cardiff.

Last year's match in the Welsh capital was marked by acrimony after the hosts won courtesy of a controversial Mike Phillips try, when Wales used a different ball from a line-out to the one that went into touch, aided by a touch judge failing to spot the switch.

"It is certainly a tough rivalry," added O'Connell. "A lot of us got to know each other on the Lions tour to South Africa in 2009 and we play against each other in the Pro 12 every week and the Heineken Cup and Six Nations year after year.

"There is no doubt there is an edge to it. It is a great fixture and some of the games have been brilliant, high-intensity, physical encounters. I expect it will be no different this time."

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