Ireland back Hugo Keenan has set his sights on silverware ahead of his side’s 2022 Guinness Six Nations opener against Wales.
Ireland host the defending champions at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday in a re-match of last year’s Round 1 clash, which Wales won 21-16 in Cardiff.
The versatile Keenan made his debut in the famous green jersey during the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, starting against Italy and scoring two tries in a 50-17 win.
He also featured in November’s Autumn Nations Series, where Ireland won all three matches, including a famous 29-20 home success against New Zealand.
And now the 25-year-old wants them to take the next step and claim their first Championship title since their 2018 Grand Slam.
Keenan said: “I suppose that’s probably the standard that we’ve set, and it’s about building upon that.
“We didn’t win anything in November. So we’ve got an opportunity over the next six, eight, whatever number of weeks it is, to get a bit of silverware.
“We’re obviously focusing game by game, but we’ve got that goal at the end of it as a team and something for us to drive towards.
“It’s good foundations, but we have a lot to improve on, and we’ve been working on those things over the last week.”
The Ireland squad is currently taking part in a training camp in Portugal, with head coach Andy Farrell set to name his Round 1 matchday squad on Thursday.
There is good news for Farrell with Iain Henderson back from injury, meaning that his squad are free of any concerns heading into the clash with Wales.
Keenan is competing with the likes of Keith Earls, Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway and Mack Hansen for a place in Farrell’s back three and, after two years in the Test side, he emphasised he’s more aware of the physical challenges of international rugby than ever.
Keenan added: “You get to know international rugby pretty quickly once you’re into it.
“It is that step up; it’s more physical, mistakes are punished, you can’t get away with anything.
“So, I think it was pretty much straight away you realise it, and it’s about embracing that, and I suppose just trying to, once you get a few caps, get more used to it and comfortable with it.
“It’s a testing challenge, and it always will be, but I suppose that’s the beauty of international rugby. It will always be tough.”
Keenan has 14 caps and five tries to his name already and will be hoping to add to that against Wales on Saturday.
After that, Ireland travel to Paris for a mouth-watering clash with France in Round 2 before going on to host Italy, visit England and then host Scotland.
And the winger admits any team can win the Championship this season.
“As I said earlier, it is always tough; there is never going to be an easy game in international rugby. So, definitely not resting on my laurels,” he added.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting, and there’s a load of good teams in it capable of winning.
“Wales as well are going to be a serious challenge this weekend, so we are going to be focusing on the first in our minds. I don’t think we are looking past that, and I don’t think we can afford to.”