7 questions that may be answered at Lansdowne Road this evening...

Patrick McCarry is in his seat at the Aviva Stadium and ready for Ireland v Scotland. Here’s what’s in store.

Rory Best practices his throw in D4 yesterday.
Rory Best practices his throw in D4 yesterday.
Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland

WE’RE A COUPLE of hours away from kick-off at the Aviva Stadium and a few brave souls have arrived in plenty of time to warm their seats.

It’s shaping up to be a great evening for attacking rugby with only the slightest of breezes rippling the Irish tricolour and the Saint Andrew’s flag of Scotland.

By 7pm one team will be heading into the final weekend of action with renewed confidence. The other will face a long week of questions and grudgingly consign the 2012 Six Nations to the wastebin of history.

We look at the main questions that may be resolved by the final whistle.

Will Ireland employ the same rush defence that flummoxed the French?

A ruse so cunning that it had the Irish 17-6 up at half-time. Teeter on offside and bolt from the line to suffocate the French attackers.

What was touched on at Eden Park in the win over Australia was mastered for 40 glorious minutes against France. The rush defence is high risk but paid off at crucial periods, such as Bowe’s intercept try. It is a tactic that saps the energy so expect Ireland to add more of a kicking game to their play today.

Is Peter O’Mahony the solution to Ireland’s Number 7 conundrum?

No pressure on the young Munster forward here. O’Mahony has been heralded in newsprint and in online forums as the solution to Ireland’s prolonged search for a genuine Number 7.

Two caps to date as a substitute but today’s match affords him the change to shape a game, a scramble for ball, from the get-go. Up against Edinburgh’s Ross Rennie today and faced with the challenge to secure quick ball, O’Mahony could well play his way into contention for a starting slot at Twickenham next weekend.

Is this the beginning of Donnacha Ryan’s long career in the second-row?

Ryan is another player that has been talked up in many quarters since, and in some cases before, the World Cup. The fact that he has displaced Donncha O’Callaghan in a winning Munster Heineken Cup team has led to calls for him to be expedited into the second-row. Injury to Paul O’Connell sees O’Callaghan and Ryan line-up together and it provides the perfect set-up to choose between old and new. Ryan has the confidence to demand and carry the ball and his line-out jumping will be crucial to negate Richie Gray’s humongous influence.

Will a new Irish leader emerge?

One can’t imagine Emily O’Leary, Paul O’Connell’s partner, tweeting about her better half’s anxiety on the way to watch Ireland from the stands but the Munster man will join Brian O’Driscoll in the stands and bristle uncomfortably throughout as the sides do battle.

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Rory Best will do a fine job as captain, and will hope to locate his throwing radar at the line-out, but now is the time for new on-field leaders to step up. It will be interesting to see who issues the rallying calls and who leads the chats under the posts during penalties and conversions. Jamie Heaslip and Jonny Sexton have been earmarked for more responsibility and have the perfect stage to exert their influence.

How far away are Scotland from being serious Six Nations challengers?

Three defeats on the bounce but Scotland can look at the home losses to England and France as genuine opportunities squandered. Coach Andy Robinson has tinkered with his line-up this season but has finally, it seems, to see sense. Stuart Hogg is in from the start and Ross Ford has kept the captaincy. David Denton and John Barclay will test the credentials of the Irish back-row and Lee Jones’ addition to the backline should turn possession into scoring chances. The exodus of players from Glasgow and Edinburgh in the past two years was initially seen as a bad thing but the emergence of young stars like Denton, Hogg and Jones gives Scots reason to believe that the future may not be completely bleak.

Can Eoin Reddan stake a claim for a consistent stint in the green jersey?

For the first time in a year Eoin Reddan should start two games at scrum-half for Ireland. The 31-year-old has never enjoyed that feeling of consistency and has done battle with Tomas O’Leary, Peter Stringer, Conor Murray and Isaac Boss – with varying degrees of success – since his debut in 2006. Having sparked Ireland coming off the bench against Italy, Reddan now needs another strong performance to ensure that the Number 9 jersey is his at Twickenham.

Can Ireland, and the crowd, make the Aviva a fortress?

Ireland are not long at the Aviva but have won just four times from 10 matches. They have yet to win twice in a row since Lansdowne Road was given its jazzy new name.

An early evening kick-off gives fans the crucial extra few hours to lubricate their cheering voices and a close encounter should lead to loud encouragement throughout. The players have spoken about making their revamped home a fortress and two wins on the spin would represent a good start to laying the foundations.

Six Nations preview: Reach for the sky, Ireland

Open thread: how do you think Ireland will do against Scotland today?

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