O'Connell vows to build on provincial prowess
January 25, 2012
Paul O'Connell will fill the Ireland captaincy void left by the injured Brian O'Driscoll © Getty Images
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell is confident that his side can feed off the success of the country's provinces in this season's Six Nations.
Leinster, Munster and Ulster have all reached the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup this season - the first time they have all progressed from the pool stages and Irish representation in the last four guaranteed. O'Connell has revealed Ireland, who open their Six Nations campaign against Wales on Sunday week, are keen to transfer that progress into the Test arena.
"The provinces winning certainly gives the national team a lift," said O'Connell at today's tournament launch in London. "We'll have a group of guys coming in from three teams who have been doing things differently yet have been successful.
"You bring in three different types of experience into a squad and that's a good thing. We've been used to winning games away from home and winning pressure games, figuring out ways to get the result. All of that combines and should be good for the Ireland team.
"It certainly puts a spring in your step and you can see the effect the successful campaigns have had on the atmosphere around the squad. It's been good that most of us have been able to move away from that disappointing performances in the World Cup quarter-final against Wales and put a campaign together. It gets that performance out of the system for a lot of us."
The 22-10 loss to Wales in Wellington last October brought an abrupt end to a World Cup that had promised so much. Ireland produced their worst performance of the tournament and were well beaten by a side that played with greater dynamism and accuracy.
"That defeat certainly focuses the mind," said Lions skipper O'Connell. "We just didn't perform to the best of our ability on the day and that's what you must do on the big occasions.
"We had a good World Cup in that we played well against Australia and Italy, we just didn't produce our best against Wales, certainly in that last half hour. There were two defensive lapses that gave the game to Wales and that was a big disappointment. Hopefully we can put that right next weekend.
"It's a really tough rivalry there. A lot of us got to know each other from the 2009 Lions tour. There's an edge to it and there have been some great, physical games."
Ireland meet Wales and then travel to Paris to face France in a challenging start to the Six Nations. O'Connell admits they must begin with all guns blazing. "We can't afford a slow start against Wales. We won't be able to start by playing anything other than to the best of our potential," he said.
"We lost to them in the quarter-final because we didn't play to our potential and paid the price. We need to put in a big performance. There will be no warm-up going into it, we must produce it from the start."
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