Just how much of an opportunity do Ireland have of winning the 2015 Six Nations title?
Ireland have not won outright back-to-back titles since 1948/49, and this is a clash on which events in Rome and London will have a huge bearing.
Wales are still in the running and may manage to knock France out and set a target for the other two when they play Italy prior to kick-off in Murrayfield.
But, in the most likely scenarios, it is current front-runners England that Ireland have to think about most.
If France cannot win at Twickenham and it does come down to a points-race between Ireland and England, then six is the magic number. If Ireland win, every point after the sixth would increase the pressure on Stuart Lancaster’s men.
Is planning like this over-complicating things? Should Ireland simply worry about the result and hope that the rest will take care of itself?
A few years ago, that might have been the likely approach.
But this is a generation of players brought up on permutations and bonus points.
There is also the fact that a title win would be a significant personal and professional milestone. With mind specialists and a smart coaching group in place, the hope is that the desire to score enough points to challenge for the title will be harnessed rather than allowed to act as a drag.
Scotland could turn out to be a good opponent to have. Vern Cotter’s men have played an admirable and exciting style throughout this championship, but doubts remain about the suitability of their high-paced, offload-driven style for Test rugby. The Scottish defence, always on the lookout for intercepts and quick chances after turnovers, is in a similar vein: sometimes messy, sometimes high-exciting and always high-risk.
From Ireland’s perspective, the only point that needs noting is that Scotland’s style is both an opportunity and a threat.
And while it might be tempting to try to turn the match into a shootout, it must be noted that Joe Schmidt and his coaches have stuck with the tight-five-oriented selection policy that had served them well prior to Cardiff. Devin Toner and Mike Ross are retained.
A huge departure from the stall set out at the beginning of this championship is unlikely but Ireland may look to change gears at an earlier stage. Eoin Reddan, Iain Henderson and Sean Cronin may find themselves given a significant chunk of time to make their mark, depending on how the first half-hour goes.
Behind the scrum, Luke Fitzgerald comes in for the unfortunate Simon Zebo, who has done everything asked of him up to now.
Along with that change, the hope must be that a re-thinking of the play in the wide channels occurs, with Jared Payne becoming a creative pivot rather than the isolated target he was against Wales.
The second change, wherein Cian Healy starts in place of Jack McGrath, could spare Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony some ball-carrying duties around the ruck and release the back row into the wider channels.
Scotland may not have the same quality as the Welsh but Blair Cowan is an excellent breakdown forward and the second rows are big, powerful men. It is a group that can do plenty of damage if the attack is one-dimensional.
As Paul O’Connell showed a week ago, there is room out beyond the centres.
Scotland’s intercept threat is also significant, and Payne is in the crucial position. Schmidt must decide whether to back his wide men by allowing them to stand deeper, or stick with the low-risk, flat structure that came unstuck in Wales.
As well as re-engineering the attack, Ireland must also address the steep declines in discipline and the set-piece.
Similar failures to last week will lead to Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg becoming significant factors in the game, just as the key Welsh backs did last week.
Ireland have been sucker-punched on more than one occasion in this fixture over the last few years but, despite last week’s setback, there is no doubt they are a much better outfit than the teams that lost to Scotland in 2010 and, particularly, 2013.
For their part, Scotland do not look to be at their best.
But running up a massive total is probably beyond Ireland. Instead, there is hope in the fact that they have only conceded two tries in this championship, and have a superior kicking game and set-piece.
Control of territory and possession may just be able to keep the Scots from making any real impact on the scoreboard. If that can be achieved, Ireland may at least put a degree of extra pressure on England before that crucial third match starts.
Six Nations Prediction:
Scotland 3-21 Ireland
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Dougie Fife, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain), Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Jim Hamilton, Jonny Gray, Adam Ashe, Blair Cowan, David Denton
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Alasdair Dickinson, Geoff Cross, Tim Swinson, Rob Harley, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Greg Tonks, Tim Visser
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Luke Fitzgerald, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Paul O'Connell (captain), Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Iain Henderson, Jordi Murphy, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Felix Jones
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Touch judges: Pascal Gauzere (France) & Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)