There will be many outside the Scotland camp who see the challenge this weekend as impossible.

Scotland go into this weekend’s match with a chance of a top two finish in the Guinness Men's Six Nations for the first time. Add to this the Triple Crown; bouncing back from the defeat to Italy; righting the wrongs from the last time the two sides met; this being Scotland's legendary team doctor James Robson's final game. I doubt the guys will be looking for added motivation, but there is plenty available.

The external would suggest the task is insurmountable. Taking on Ireland, in Dublin, on St Paddy’s weekend. Plus Ireland will be licking their wounds from Twickenham and playing to win the Championship. A tough challenge? Sure. But impossible? No.

The more I reflect on last weekend, the more impressed I am with Italy. Scotland appeared to dominate most of the first half, and there was a relentlessness to the opening exchanges. When Italy kicked a penalty after five minutes, Scotland went straight up the other end and scored. It was a fast, dynamic, and ruthless start, which unfortunately couldn’t be sustained. But credit must go the Azzurri. They’ve always been full of passion but seem to have found a sense of calmness and belief under their new coach, Gonzalo Quesada.

From an Italian side, the final few minutes was where we saw a shift in this team. When Scotland were attacking, going through phase after phase, the Italy of old would have given away a penalty. We’d have seen an Italian player flying off the line too soon or going off their feet at a ruck. And that would have been all Scotland needed to get three points or kick to the corner to launch their impressive lineout drive. There was an element of composure around their defence that we haven’t seen for a long time.

We knew this result had been coming for Italy; not necessarily against Scotland, although they were only a knock-on away from beating us in last year’s Championship. Everyone remembers Duhan van der Merwe breaking up the wing and Blair Kinghorn scoring that sweeping try right at the end in 2023, but they forget Italy lost the ball a couple of metres in front of the Scottish line just moments earlier.

Then there was their draw with France in round three this year, plus that win in Cardiff in 2022.

I wrote last week about Italy’s impressive U20s production line, which after the loss last weekend has put a spotlight on our own pathway to the senior team. Italy are exposing their young players to a higher level of competition, which means they’re prepared for the intensity of U20s rugby.

It was the same with France or England when I was playing age group rugby: they had guys playing or training with Top 14, ProD2 or Premiership clubs, which meant we tended to get outshone against them. We want to see as many young Scottish players coming through to represent Scotland as possible, so I’d love to see our pathway system thriving like Italy’s right now.

Last weekend’s results served to emphasise how the Championship is decided on small margins. The outcomes of games have been the closest in Six Nations history. A week ago, Scotland were looking at a top-two finish - and potentially going to Ireland for chance to win the tournament. But with France’s bonus-point win, and Italy beating Scotland, it means we can finish almost anywhere in the table. One result can turn everything, and everyone is beatable.

Nobody gave England a chance against Ireland. Some said it was impossible. You read all the comments from past players who wrote them off completely. In a way, I don’t blame them for saying what they did because Ireland had been so clinical up until then, and England hadn’t shown anything that would make us think they were going to be competitive.

We saw a totally different England who exposed an Ireland team many had deemed invincible. Scotland will be all too aware how good the men in green are, but as England showed us, they are not unbeatable.

Roger Bannister’s target of the sub-four-minute mile was deemed impossible by many. That was until he did it. And then when he did, John Landy did it a week after.

I’m hoping for a similar theme this weekend.