Ireland have confidence to overcome Wales, says Ward

Football Soccer - Moldova v Republic of Ireland - 2018 World Cup Qualifying European Zone - Group D - Stadionul Zimbru, Chisinau, Moldova - 9/10/16 Republic of Ireland's James McClean celebrates scoring their second goal with Stephen Ward Reuters / Gleb Garanich Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. - RTSRHUQ

(Reuters) - Ireland are comfortably placed at the top of their World Cup qualifying group and defender Stephen Ward has said the team are confident they can beat Wales in Friday's match and increase their advantage.

Ireland have won three and drawn one match to lead Group D with 10 points while Wales have managed only one win in four matches and are third with six points.

Ireland were eliminated by hosts France in the Round of 16 stage of the 2016 European Championships while Wales were defeated by Portugal in the semi-finals. Ireland have not lost to Wales at home since 1992.

"From our point of view, we have taken a lot of confidence. Especially the younger lads and even the experienced lads have grown as players and that has shown in how we have started this campaign," the 31-year old told the reporters.

"Wales obviously finished on a high having got to the semi-finals and sometimes it can be difficult to keep those standards so high because that was an unbelievable achievement from them.

"We can only concentrate on ourselves... We feel we can go into any game now with the confidence to win."

Ireland could go five points clear at the top of Group D if they win and Ward has urged his team mates to capitalise on the opportunity.

"I don't think that we really concentrate on other teams," he said.

"We know the rewards if we can win the game and if we do get the three points - which we're going out there to do - we'll put ourselves in a really strong position for the second half of the group."

(Story corrected to clarify Wales lost to Portugal, not Belgium, in third para)

(Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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