It is only the second week of the 2019 Six Nations, but already Saturday's clash between Ireland and Scotland at Murrayfield looks to be campaign-defining for both sides.
For Gregor Townsend’s hosts, they have the chance to prove their championship credentials, and show they are deserving of a place at world rugby’s top table.
Meanwhile Joe Schmidt’s visitors know only a victory will keep their title hopes alive, following on from last weekend’s sobering 33-20 defeat to England in Dublin.
And to add to the narrative, the next time these two meet will be in Yokohama, Japan on September 22nd - the opening Pool A fixture of the Rugby World Cup.
It is Scotland’s daring band of warrior poets against Ireland’s brutally efficient, well-oiled winning machine - and here is everything you need to know before kick-off in Edinburgh.
What is it?
Ireland travel to face Scotland in the second round of the 2019 Six Nations Championship at Murrayfield.
When is it?
The match kicks-off at 2.15pm on Saturday, February 9th.
How can I watch it?
The game is being televised on free-to-air television, by Virgin Media One (coverage starts at 1pm) and BBC One (coverage 2pm). We will also be bringing you all of the action live through the Irish Times liveblog, which should be up and running by 1.30pm.
Murrayfield is well and truly sold out - unsurprisingly.
The story so far
Ireland arrive in Edinburgh licking their wounds after a brutal 33-20 defeat to England in the opening round of the championship. The world’s number two side went into their clash with the old enemy as heavy favourites but were blown away at the Aviva Stadium, shipping four tries as a run of 12 Test match victories on home soil was brought to a shuddering halt.
Scotland, meanwhile, are sitting on top of the championship - albeit by the slimmest of margins - after they began their campaign with a 33-20 win over Italy at Murrayfield. Townsend's side dominated and slipped into gear in the second-half, with the electric Blair Kinghorn scoring three of their five tries. However, a late yellow card for Simon Berghan sparked a mini-collapse, and the Azzurri were allowed to run in three late scores.
Ireland’s defeat to England came at a high price, with three frontline players picking up injuries. CJ Stander has been ruled out for four weeks with a reported fractured cheekbone and eye socket, Garry Ringrose has a hamstring problem and Devin Toner is out with an ankle injury.
As a result, Schmidt has made five changes to his starting XV. Rob Kearney missed the England match but has been recalled at fullback. Robbie Henshaw was set to revert to outside centre in Ringrose's absence but he has also been ruled out, meaning Munster's Chris Farrell will earn his fourth cap in midfield.
Seán O'Brien impressed off the bench against England and replaces Josh van der Flier, while Jack Conan is in for Stander at number eight. Connacht’s Qunn Roux is named to start at lock instead of Toner. His provincial teammate Ultan Dillane starts on the bench, with Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne Ireland’s other secondrow casualties.
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (capt), Tadhg Furlong; Quinn Roux, James Ryan; Peter O'Mahony, Seán O'Brien, Jack Conan. Replacements: Seán Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier, John Cooney, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.
And what about the Scots?
Gregor Townsend saw Exeter flanker Sam Skinner limp off in the opening half of the win over Italy - he was replaced by Josh Strauss at Murrayfield, who is to start at number eight on Saturday, with Ryan Wilson moving to six. Perhaps more critically for Scotland, tighthead prop WP Nel has been ruled out with a calf injury, and their scrum looks vulnerable in his absence. Simon Berghan starts at tighthead.
Townsend has however been able to welcome back a number of familiar faces, and has made two further changes to his starting XV. Despite his opening weekend hat-trick - the first for Scotland in the Six Nations era - Kinghorn has been dropped to the bench, with Sean Maitland’s experience and defensive capabilities seeing him get the nod on the wing. There’s also a change at lock, with Jonny Gray replacing Ben Toolis. The fit again Glasgow duo of Fraser Brown (hooker) and Peter Horne (centre) are named the bench.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist; Josh Strauss, Jamie Ritchie, Ryan Wilson. Replacements: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, D'Arcy Rae, Ben Toolis, Rob Harley, Ali Price, Peter Horne, Blair Kinghorn.
There have been 134 meetings between the sides since 1877, with Ireland winning 62, Scotland winning 67 and five draws.
You’re living in the past! What about recent history?
Since the 2009 Six Nations, Ireland have won seven of the 10 championship meetings between the two sides, with Scotland’s last victory coming at Murrayfield in 2017.
On the whole, though, Ireland have a good record in Edinburgh - in the nine Championship meetings at Murrayfield since 2001, Ireland have won six.
In the shadow of Japan
While this game is crucial for both sides’ Six Nations campaigns, it will be hard not to have September’s Rugby World Cup meeting in mind. Ireland and Scotland are in Pool A, alongside hosts Japan, Samoa and Russia. It is likely whoever hits the ground running and wins the opening fixture will go on to win the pool, and whoever wins the pool is likely to face the Springboks, rather than the All Blacks, in the quarter-finals.
Sunday September 22nd, Yokohama City, 8.45am (Irish time) - remember the date.
What’s the betting?
The bookies fancy Ireland to bounce back this weekend -
Scotland 11-5 Draw 25-1 Ireland 2-5 (Handicap Ireland -6 10-11)
How’s the weather looking?
Edinburgh is set to be cold (eight degrees), wet and windy on Saturday afternoon - although there will be, supposedly, sunny intervals.
Who’s on the whistle?
France’s Romain Poite will be in charge on Saturday.
Scotland haven’t lost a Six Nations match in Edinburgh since the Calcutta Cup in February 2016 - a run of seven matches.
Ireland look well set to bounce back at Murrayfield after last weekend’s wake-up call.
We were bullied by England, players are dropping like flies and the Scots are looking handy - we’re doomed!