It’s all up in the air for the Irish
Triple Crown and Grand Slam ambitions may have gone up in smoke in the Millennium cauldron last weekend but Ireland can still rise to the top with victory in Murrayfield.
For Scotland there is the ignominy of the Wooden Spoon to avoid and a promised win that has so far proved elusive all championship.
The clash pitches together a fascinating meeting of two of the foremost rugby brains in the game right now.
Vern Cotter and Joe Schmidt both coached together at Bay of Plenty before enjoying a successful stint at Clermont.
Needless to say the hugely competitive Kiwi coaches will be keen to put one over each other.
Ireland looked off-colour and predictable last weekend, with their running game letting them down after their aerial assault was nullified to great effect by the Welsh.
You can be sure Cotter will have his own strategy to deal with similar kick-chase tactics but without the noted Welsh high fielders to call on, that may be easier said than done.
Expect Ireland to mix it up a bit more anyway, with the inclusion of Luke Fitzgerald for a first start on the left wing suggesting as much.
The Scots may be winless this year but they go in search for a third consecutive victory at home to the Irish.
The key to securing that may be a quick start as Ireland could struggle if left to chase the game again.
On the flip side, should the visitors can establish an advantage, they have proven masters at defending a lead and seeing the game out.
The Scots hung in at Twickenham until late in the game, with the English making 17 line breaks.
If Scotland are that profligate in the tackle again, Ireland will profit. That said, the Irish will have to show a little more invention than they did in Cardiff.
Schmidt’s men can be vulnerable to runs from deep, as England showed in Dublin, and here Stuart Hogg could capitalise on any loose kicking.
The Glasgow man not only defended heroically last weekend but continues to be Scotland’s most potent attacking weapon, making more metres (356) and beating more defenders (14) than any other player in the championship.
Elsewhere, Blair Cowan has proved scavenger supreme, winning the most turnovers (7) in the competition, and will look to disrupt quick Irish ball.
Ireland will need to win and by a decent margin if they are to see off the challenges England (currently four points better off) and Wales (21 points behind).
But Scotland have only lost by margins of 7,3,3 and 12, and it’s difficult to see an Irish team – which has registered just a miserly four tries – suddenly cutting loose.
Cotter will have his side primed to salvage something from an underwhelming campaign by sabotaging his old mucker’s bid for back-to-back titles, but the Irish should just have enough to see this one through.
Ireland to win by 1-12 points looks prudent at 11/8.
The match kicks off at 2.30pm on Saturday, March 21st at BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh