It may only be round two but Ireland welcoming France to Dublin already feels likely to be the defining game of the Six Nations.
Billed as a Grand Slam decider between last year’s champions and the No.1 ranked side in the world, both teams starting with away victories of very different hues has only added fuel to the fire.
In any non-World Cup season, it would be a slam dunk as game of the year.
But will the atmosphere match the occasion?
“I think everyone realises what’s coming,” said Andy Farrell after his side silenced one of the truly great rugby venues with their 34-10 win over Wales in Cardiff.
“And there’s one thing about an Irish crowd, they know that if there’s a big game and they have to get behind the team they are the best in the world, there’s no doubt about that.”
The atmosphere at the Aviva Stadium has, however, been the subject of some debate for years now.
Since the redevelopment of the old Lansdowne Road, what in modern parlance can be termed the “matchday experience” has evolved to the degree of being unrecognisable.
The days of overflowing terraces in a stadium that shook at seemingly random intervals thanks to the passing trains were never going to last. Look at any similarly sized events in any sport and the need to generate match-day income on larger and larger scales is apparent, not to mention making venues safer for attendees than they were in less regulated eras.
Those changes, however, did not have to mean a change in the sounds and scenes of big match days.
Visits to the Stade de France and Principality Stadium are stirring experiences, Murrayfield and Twickenham have their own vibe too, but in the main the Aviva in recent seasons has been talked about in terms of what it lacks rather than what it brings.
Visits from England and the All Blacks can still produce the old crackle and buzz — the new stadium has perhaps never been louder than it was for the heart-breaking 2013 defeat against the then world champions — but by and large it can feel a sanitised experience.
The use of in-game music over the PA was a source of ridicule in the autumn while fans milling about the concourse as kick-off approaches rather than taking their seats has long been considered an issue.
At the heart of it all has been the debate over alcohol sales and the phenomenon of the day-tripper.
The latter can produce the jarring sound of chatter being heard over cheers or the somewhat ridiculous sight of those taking selfies with their back to the game while the drama takes places out of their eyeline.
There is, in truth, little that can be done in that regard. Once a person has forked over a considerable chunk of their hard-earned cash to buy a ticket, how they engage with the game is up to them, even if it is the sort of behaviour that has sparked criticisms of turning the place into a massive outdoor pub with a sporting occasion in the background.
But availability of alcohol during the games and in the stadium bowl has a knock-on effect with the journey back and forth from seats to the stadium bars impacting on those looking to solely keep their eyes trained on the action.
To their credit, the IRFU have engaged on the issue, conducting market research across last November’s Tests against both South Africa and Australia. The results lay bare the difficulties in plotting a course forward.
Almost seven in 10 across both fixtures planned to have an alcoholic beverage during the games while just 25% felt people getting up and coming back with drinks during the action greatly diminishes their experience of the game.
While the debate is increasingly prominent, and a need for change cited, the majority are in favour of the status quo.
Still, ahead of Saturday’s game, the union are planning a number of new measures including a communications campaign for all attending the matches and engaging with the stadium bar and catering operators to improve pre-match and half-time service times, while security and stewarding will be encouraging people to be respectful of others around re-entry to the bowl.
Whether with a drink in hand or not, this is an Irish side deserving of attention. While this team is becoming known for its efficiency and its accuracy, the likes of James Lowe still provide an X-factor. And they’ll be pushed to their limits against Les Bleus in what will be the most eagerly anticipated of contests. Hopefully the atmosphere is similarly lifted.
In Twickenham on Saturday evening, Duhan van der Merwe of Scotland scored one the all-time great Six Nations tries.
During his side’s win over England that brought another Calcutta Cup, the Edinburgh man took the ball some 54 metres from the line with plenty of distance and would-be tacklers between himself and the crucial score.
None of that mattered to the British and Irish Lion wing who set off on a mazy dart from inside his own half, beating five defenders on his way to a place on the eternal highlights reel of the game’s oldest fixture.
After the game, his head coach said it was a score that belonged not in the Six Nations but in the 1990s computer game Jonah Lomu Rugby.
It was a genuinely incredible score, one that lit up a great game with a touch of the unforgettable. One can only imagine the reaction of the pockets of Scottish fans in Twickenham or in the bars and living rooms of those watching it from home turf.
No sooner had the cries of disbelief subsided, than there were those taking to social media to decry that, ‘well, actually’ the try wasn’t that good at all.
On closer inspection the logic went, Van der Merwe should barely have been able to make five metres with the ball. Joe Marchant, Ollie Chessum, Freddie Steward, Jack van Poortvliet and Alex Dombrandt all got close enough to attempt a tackle and certainly some will have winced on viewing the unavoidable replays.
There is no doubt that a number of the English tackles weren’t of the sort we expect in a tournament that calls itself rugby’s greatest but there feels something sadly binary about the notion that good attack can’t take place in the same instance as poor attempts to stop it.
While such a view is all well and good for defence coaches who make their living from preventing scores, just when did so many of the rest of us become so joyless? Why is it a missed tackle and not a defender beaten?
In the modern game, where the focus on defence has increased massively since the onset of professionalism and at an even quicker rate in recent years, such long range efforts feel as if they should be screened in black and white yet the instant reaction to these rarities is not to revel in their scarcity but to point the finger.
Almost as tedious as those who were so quick to note that the scorer of the try was born in South Africa and not Scotland, the odd desire to focus first on the negative ignores the fact that, such is the nature of the game, every score is in someway preventable.
Frankly, if you didn’t enjoy that moment from Van der Merwe, either live or as it rippled around the internet afterwards, you either don’t enjoy rugby... or are English.