Rugby-Ireland must relish top ranking in world rugby says Beirne

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - Ireland v Scotland - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - March 19, 2022 Ireland's Tadhg Beirne in action with Scotland's Ali Price REUTERS/Lorraine O'sullivan/File Photo

(Reuters) - Ireland must learn to embrace the expectation and scrutiny that comes with being the top ranked rugby team in the world, experienced forward Tadhg Beirne said on Tuesday.

Ireland will start this year’s Six Nations Championship leading the World Rugby rankings but have a difficult opener away to Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

"We're ranked number one in the world, so no matter who we come up against, we have a target on our back,” Beirne told a news conference at the team’s training camp in Portugal on Tuesday.

"If we were playing the number one team it would be the same thing... It’s pretty exciting in my opinion and I look forward to the challenge when I get to be on the pitch to being able to put our best foot forward and hopefully maintain that number one spot.

"We’re here to win. That’s what we want to do,” the 31-year-old lock, who has also played for the British & Irish Lions, added.

He did, however, warn team mates to expect an intimidating cauldron with 80,000 spectators expected in Cardiff on Saturday.

“We’ve spoken about that this week, about how big an occasion it can be, not to be shocked by the noise, by the intensity that they can bring from being at home. That’s on us, to deal with those pressures.

“In the past, in the last couple of times I’ve played there, my first cap in the Six Nations was there and unfortunately it didn’t go particularly well, they ended up winning a Grand Slam in the last game of the season.

"That was my first experience of it and I’m not going to lie, it really shocked me in terms of noise level, just the intensity of the game.

“So I think it’s important for us to, you know, anyone who hasn’t played there before, making them aware of how intense this game will be and how good Wales can be at home.

"If we can go in ready and prepared for that then I think we’ll be in a very good place.”

Despite their top ranking, Ireland did not win the Six Nations last year, ending as runners-up to France.

“I obviously want to win this championship, I’ve never won it before,” added Beirne. “That’s the mindset of all of the players. And I think it’s pretty clear that’s the mindset of the coaches as well, that they want to win the Championship."

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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