The Wales-Ireland fixture has been preceded by a week long sniping festival for some time now. 

In recent years, it appears that publications on both sides of the Irish Sea have directed interns to spend the week scanning the opposition media for any scrap of 'dressing room wall material'. 

This war of keyboards reached its zenith ahead of the penultimate weekend meeting in 2015 when Keith Wood offended the Welsh with his breezy confidence and Neil Francis offended them by saying their coach carried the same intellectual heft as a tub of margarine. 

The Welsh press seized on these comments and wrung them for more than they were probably worth in the lead-up. Tony Copsey was even contacted and he obliged the reporter by telling them he'd have to consider giving Franno another slap. And they didn't skimp on the gloating afterwards, plonking a tub of Flora on the front of the Western Mail sports section along with a 'memo to cocky Irish pundits' that Wales had indeed won the game.

The following week, Ireland slaughtered Scotland to win the championship on points difference and the Irish Independent responded with their own margarine themed front page.

The Irish media isn't shy when it comes to sniping, the churlishness about Warren Gatland's remarkable coaching record being one recurring example. 

A large number of Irish ex-players and pundits talk about Gatland as if he's the thick guy they knew at school who subsequently became a millionaire. 

They grudgingly presume that he must have something about him but they don't know what it is. (They might mutter a few words about his ability to foster team spirit but that's about it.)

There's more than a hint of resentment there, and probably a pinch of embarrassment that he's managed to win so much since the IRFU bumped him off so harshly at the end of 2001.   

Regardless of Gatland's trophy haul, it's striking the degree to which Irish players from that era insist that Eddie O'Sullivan was, in technical terms anyway, a superior rugby coach. 

A large number of Irish ex-players and pundits talk about Gatland as if he's the thick guy they knew at school who subsequently became a millionaire. 

O'Sullivan couldn't be accused of being too cocky this week. Speaking on 'Against the Head' this Monday, he pointed to Wales's giddy prowess when in a winning position.  

"Wales, once they luckily got out of Paris, sensed a Grand Slam. And Wales rarely make a mistake when they sense a trophy, particularly at home.

"It's very hard to win in Wales in the Millennium Stadium on an average day but when it's a Grand Slam on the line, that makes it extremely difficult."

O'Sullivan knows this better than anyone. 

He coached Ireland in seven Six Nations campaigns between 2002 and 2008. Ireland beat Wales in five of those years, a couple of them (2002, 2006) resounding demolition jobs. Wales won the other two games. 

The Grand Slam tally in that time-span? Wales 2-0 Ireland.

When the Welsh get the scent of silverware in their nostrils, they're hard to stop. That air of destiny becomes difficult to ignore. Their giddy confidence becomes deeply annoying to rivals. They talk it up and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

1994 was the last time Wales cocked up a Grand Slam attempt on the final day and that was in Twickenham. A perusal of the records from that era makes it hard to figure where that Welsh Five Nations success came out of. On the years either side of '94, Wales were wooden-spooners. But that didn't inhibit them once they'd built up a head of steam. Like 2005, it was a bolt from the blue success. 

Since '94, every time Wales have won their first three matches in the Six Nations, they've proceeded to complete the Slam.

2005 remains the gold standard. The Welsh had been hopeless for most of the previous 15 years, save for that opportunistic Five Nations triumph in 1994 and their brief upswing in form during the early Graham Henry years.

But after the couple of wins, the feelgood vibes wafting out of Wales suggested that the struggles and humiliations of the previous few years had all been forgotten and it was, to all intents and purposes, 1978 again.

It's a particular Welsh talent, that ability to forget about the bad times. They evidently took Tony Soprano's advice to his children to heart. "Maybe you'll remember the little moments, like this, that were good".

I remember watching a BBC preview ahead of a Wales-Ireland game in Cardiff in which an ex-Welsh player, whose name escapes me, said that you'd really have to be expecting Wales to beat Ireland here, especially since the game was in Cardiff. At the time of recording, Ireland had won 10 of the previous 12 games in Cardiff, drawing another one. 

Ireland had been rapping hard at the door in the championship by 2005. They were on a five-game winning streak against Wales and had finished runners-up in three of the previous four seasons. Hell, they hadn't lost in the Welsh capital since bloody 1983. But that counted for little as they were swept aside by a red wave that day.

The Welsh, unlike Ireland, have what's known as a winning tradition, a winning tradition which somehow survived a decade and a half of near constant losing.

But after the couple of wins, the feelgood vibes wafting out of Wales suggested that the struggles and humiliations of the previous few years had all been forgotten and it was, to all intents and purposes, 1978 again.

The Irish, without a Slam since the Sepia-tinged post-war days, had to inch their way towards their goal, overcoming historic psychological hurdles en route, notably against the French. 

Reared on documentaries about the 1970s, Wales were not inhibited by self doubt in the same way. When they close in on victory, they course with self-belief. In 10 Grand Slam finales in Cardiff, Wales have only stumbled once, against France in 1988.    

This tendency has been even more pronounced in the Gatland era, the Kiwi coach imbuing his side with an almost otherworldly doggedness. The current season even has echoes of Gatland's first year in charge in 2008. Both were kickstarted by improbable second half comebacks on the opening weekend.    

Warren Gatland is seeking a third Grand Slam title as Wales coach

Back to Francis. Prior to the Wales-Ireland game at Wembley in 1999 (which Ireland won 23-29), Franno did a little pre-match preview for RTE in which he admitted his bafflement at the Welsh, in particular their superiority complex. 

"They still have this superiority complex. Always cocky, expecting to win every match. And this despite their poor record over the past 15 years.

"They prefer to regurgitate the chateaubriand of the 70s rather than sample the fish head soup of the 90s," Francis said of the Welsh. 

But then the constant banging on about the '70s has served a purpose. They're not afraid of winning when the opportunity presents. Far less consistent that Ireland in the professional era, and with a regional game in disarray, Wales are still going for their fourth Grand Slam in 15 years. History suggests they'll be very hard to stop. 

Follow Wales v Ireland on Saturday (kick-off 2.45pm) via the live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the News Now App, or listen live on RTÉ 2fm, with commentary from Michael Corcoran and Donal Lenihan.