Yes, the out-of-sorts Scots are more than capable of playing the party pooper and ending Ireland's hopes of picking up their first Triple Crown since 1985, but surely that just seems too unlikely? Or does it?Against France last weekend, Scotland were well out of their depth and were it not for some brave and resolute defence by the Scots the 31-0 scoreline could have been far worse. And if France had been more clinical? We shudder to think ...
The problem is not, although many would have us believe it is, lack of commitment by the Scotland team, but inexperience and a lack of any true game-breakers. Captain Chris Paterson has been extremely disappointing at fly-half and coach Matt Williams's decision to move him to fullback indicates that they want their key man to have a bit more to space to operate in.
Williams has admitted that the team's morale is at an all-time low after four consecutive losses in the tournament and it is hard to imagine how they can dig themselves out of the hole they find themselves in.
"We've lost our last four games so, in terms of confidence, obviously, we're not bubbling," he said.
"We've been working very hard, but the sad thing is we're falling below the standards we expected.
"I feel sorry for the players because they have been very dedicated and I've kept saying to them the win will come but it will take time."
Ireland, meanwhile, are riding high on a wave of success. A morale-boosting win over England was slightly dented by a stuttering performance against Italy last week, but the terrible conditions against the Azzurri hardly allowed for running rugby, and the Italians are becoming Trojans on defence.
The weather is expected to be far more pleasant in Dublin, and Ireland will be looking to rack up as many points possible with hopes, albeit slim, of Six Nations glory still alive. It is highly unlikely the Irish will put enough over the Scots to pull off a tournament win, but the results will be the same for Scotland one fears - a loss and a big one at that.
IRELAND v SCOTLAND
Date: Saturday March 27th 2004 Kick-off: 16.00 (GMT) Venue: Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Referee: N Williams (Wal)
15 Girvan Dempsey, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Gordon D'Arcy, 12 Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 11 Geordan Murphy, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Anthony Foley, 7 David Wallace, 6 Simon Easterby, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Malcolm O'Kelly, 3 John Hayes, 2 Shane Byrne, 1 Reggie Corrigan.
Replacements: 16 Frankie Sheahan, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 Donncha O'Callaghan, 19 Victor Costello, 20 David Humphreys, 21 Guy Easterby, 22 Kevin Maggs.
15 Chris Paterson (captain), 14 Simon Danielli, 13 Tom Philip, 12 Andrew Henderson, 11 Simon Webster, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Chris Cusiter, Simon Taylor, 7 Cameron Mather, 6 Jason White, 5 Stuart Grimes, 4 Scot Murray, 3 Bruce Douglas, 2 Gordon Bulloch, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Rob Russell, 17 Gavin Kerr, 18 Nathan Hines, 19 Allister Hogg/Jon Petrie, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Brendan Laney, 22 Derrick Lee.
Recent Ireland-Scotland results:
1995 Scotland 26-13 (Murrayfield); 1996 Scotland 16-10 (Dublin); 1997 Scotland 38-10 (Murrayfield); 1998 Scotland 17-16 (Dublin); 1999 Scotland 30-13 (Murrayfield); 2000 Ireland 44-22 (Dublin); 2001 Scotland 32-10 (Murrayfield); 2002 Ireland 43-22 (Dublin); 2003 Ireland 36-6 (Murrayfield); 2003 Ireland 29-10 (Murrayfield)
Head to Head Stats:
Matches Played - 116 Ireland Won - 49 Scotland Won - 61 Drawn - 5 Abandoned - 1