Andy Farrell believes the Guinness Six Nations is the ultimate test but that Ireland are set up for success, with his side’s campaign set to begin against Wales in Dublin on Saturday.
Ireland come into the Championship having won their last eight matches, with their form during the Autumn Nations Series catching the eye in particular.
Japan and Argentina were both put the sword, while New Zealand were defeated 29-20 in a performance where Ireland dominated against the three-time world champions for long periods.
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That November form makes them highly fancied to challenge for the title in Rugby’s Greatest Championship this year, but Farrell is adamant that will count for nothing if they don’t perform against Wales.
He said: “Putting ourselves under pressure in the autumn against great sides is one step and the next step is a competition with a trophy at the end of it that we want to do really well in.
“We want to put ourselves under pressure and we want to see how we deal with that pressure.
“The Six Nations is always that, it’s the ultimate test as far as a rugby competition is concerned and then you look at what we’ve got down the track, it’s exactly what we want.
“We’d all love a trophy – nobody would lie about that – but at the same time, success is pushing on with our game.”
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Farrell is also looking forward to the return of spectators at this year’s Championship, with the entirety of the 2021 edition having to be played behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It makes us tick massively,” Farrell said. “There’s a reason why you do things and one of those reasons is that we want to connect with the people.
“We want to connect with the people who are watching at home, we want them to be proud of their team with the way that we’re playing the game.
“We also want to connect with the people who are at the ground and who have made the effort to come and watch us and paid their money for their tickets.
“The connection for us is huge and we’ve missed that as a team. We got a taste of it in the autumn and we all saw what the atmosphere was like then.”