A Wales side brimming with Lions talent will be Ireland's RBS 6 Nations acid test, according to lock Dan Tuohy.
The Ulster second row believes there will be "bigger steps" than Scotland, whom Ireland swatted aside 28-6 in Dublin on Sunday.
Tuohy admitted Ireland must heed the cautionary tale of last season's abortive Six Nations, and has warned his team-mates to fight off another false dawn.
Ireland triumphed 30-22 in Wales in their opening Six Nations clash last season, only to slump to four consecutive defeats.
That capitulation cost Declan Kidney his job, and Tuohy admits Ireland must steel themselves to double their championship win tally at the first opportunity this weekend.
"That would set us up nicely for the triple crown away to England!" Tuohy joked.
"But Wales at home, England away, France away, we saw France-England and it was unbelievable.
"There are a few tough ones coming up but we feel these are teams we can mix with, so we're looking forward to it.
"Wales will be a different kettle of fish, they've had a bit of a 'feeler' game against Italy.
"We won the first game last year and we all know how that ended up, so it's important for us to back up the first week, become a consistent international team, that's what we've talked about.
"The six-day turnaround isn't ideal but we just have to get on with it and roll our sleeves up.
"Wales are going for the hat-trick, they've got Lions all over the park, so it will be notched up another level.
"It's important for us to match that physicality and intensity, and then try to go beyond it."
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt is confident O'Connell will be fit for Wales' visit to Dublin.
In-form Tuohy has helped Ulster register their first 100 per cent record in a Heineken Cup pool stage this season.
With Leinster and Munster's decorated European past to boot, Tuohy admitted Ireland have shared fans' frustration in the ability to transfer club success to the international arena.
Wales duty tends to bring the best out of their top stars, and Tuohy challenged Ireland to follow their lead.
"I still think there are bigger steps to come (than Scotland)," he said.
"I think it's always been frustrating from a fan's point of view that the provincial sides are doing so well but then we've struggled to get consistency with Ireland.
"People were wondering why if it goes so well with the provinces why can't they do it for Ireland.
"That's something we're extremely mindful of, and to be a consistent team is tough, but the more time you spend together you get to know each other a little bit better."
Tuohy is wary of the threat posed by Warren Gatland's Wales team, adding: "As soon as they put that red jersey on they turn into a different beast. They really do lift the intensity when they're playing for Wales.
"They are lit up with Lions, coming off a great tour, they'll be high on confidence.
"But it's important for us to stick to what we know, and what we know works for us."