Paul O'Connell is convinced Ireland's status as Grand Slam champions will finally enable him to realise one of his greatest ambitions. The Irish collide with tournament favourites France on Saturday in a match that could ultimately decide the destination of the title. History is heavily weighted against Ireland, who have prevailed in Paris on just two occasions since 1952 with the most recent win claimed a decade ago.
O'Connell had to wait until last year's 30-21 triumph at Croke Park in the opening match of the championship for his first taste of glory against France in eight attempts. Ireland prospered after toppling their perennial nemesis, marching to the Grand Slam and concluding the year with a precious win against world champions South Africa. But while previous Irish teams have suffered in Paris, O'Connell believes the cloak of success will embolden the latest assault on the Stade de France.
"The history of the fixture gives us motivation," said the Munster lock and Lions captain. "If we beat France away from home it will be an incredible feeling and a good box ticked. It would be a highlight in my career. In my earlier years I looked at guys like (former Ireland and Munster prop) Peter Clohessy having very, very tough times over there. Irish teams sometimes went to Paris with high hopes, sometimes not, but always came off second best. "But it's got to the stage now where we believe we can go over there and win. Now we need to actually do it. We talk about us being a more confident team than any other Irish side. We've always taken talented teams to Paris but now we're going there with a Grand Slam. You can't argue with that."