Johnny Sexton has warned that Ireland need to be at their very best to stop Scotland playmakers Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg from dominating Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations clash.
Ireland head to Edinburgh protecting a strong head-to-head record against Scotland, which has seen them win nine of their last ten matches with Gregor Townsend’s side.
However, forwards coach Paul O’Connell has already labelled this Scotland team as the best he has ever come up against and Sexton is also wary of the talent they possess.
Hogg demonstrated his brilliance with two tries in their Round 2 match with Wales, but Sexton will pit his wits directly against opposite fly-half Russell.
The Scotland No.10 plays with a flair and freedom that can wreck even the best game plans and Sexton knows he must be at the top of his game to win their head-to-head battle.
“He is obviously a big threat to us,” he added.
“He has a full box of tricks that he tries to pull out for most games. He is obviously a threat to the line, he has got a good short kicking game and he can pull the strings if we let him.
“He has hurt us in the past. We haven’t played against him the last couple of times we have played Scotland, so we have had to go back and look at some old footage.
“He has been in good form for his club and is a massive threat, like they have across their team. Finn and [captain] Stuart Hogg are probably the stand-out guys and we will have to be on our game this week to stop them.”
After defeats to Wales and France in their first two fixtures, Ireland got back on track with a convincing 48-10 Round 3 win away to Italy.
The visitors cut loose in Rome and played some excellent attacking rugby and Sexton admits they enjoyed the fine weather conditions at the Stadio Olimpico.
However, with Sunday’s temperatures unlikely to be as kind, he says Ireland are ready to roll up their sleeves.
“The thing that helped us (against Italy) the weather was pretty good. There was no wind or rain, it was a dry ball, so that is a big factor in how you play,” he said.
“Against Wales we showed some very good stuff with 14 men and it is very hard to do that. I don’t think I’ve ever hit so many rucks in my life as I did in that game but it is all-hands-on-deck and it’s where can you fill in?
“Against France it is a different game, it is a greasy ball, tough conditions for the guys, so it could be tough conditions again this Sunday in Murrayfield.
“By the looks of it, it is going to be wet and windy so we might not see that game. It could be back to rolling the sleeves up and that’s okay as well.”