Scotland head coach Vern Cotter stated that there was was a real buzz around his squad heading into the 2017 Six Nations.
Cotter and his side impressed in November, losing to Australia by a point but defeating Argentina and Georgia, with Scottish sides Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh recently impressing in Europe as Glasgow made the European Cup knockouts for the first time.
"There was a buzz on Sunday when we met up, with Glasgow making the play-offs. It’s been a couple of months and plotting games for the Six Nations… it doesn’t get harder than that, especially with Ireland first up," Cotter said.
"We’re really conscious that after Munster went to Glasgow and won. That gives you an indication of how the Irish game is going to be.
"There is a dose of realism as well. It is going to be tough, a few good performances doesn’t mean the opposition are going to give you games.
Cotter and Ireland boss Joe Schmidt know each other well from their work together at Clermont before facing off when Schmidt took charge of Leinster and then Ireland.
Speaking highly of his former team-mate, Cotter hailed Schmidt's work with Ireland since taking over.
"They don't make any mistakes. They get you down in your end of the pitch and squeeze you. Very physical and hard to move around that breakdown because they’re very organised," Cotter added.
"Joe and I have had some battles over the years. Irish rugby, Northern Hemisphere rugby, is on an up. We’ve seen that in November against the Southern Hemisphere teams.
"Joe is leading the way and they’re really a tough team, and I have a lot of respect for what he has done. In saying that, we would like to think with our improvements that we can challenge them a little bit more."
Responding to the question of whether this Scotland squad could win the title, described by captain Greig Laidlaw as the strongest group he has been a part of, Cotter was slightly more reserved.
"Are we contenders? I don’t think it’s the type of thing we would say in Scotland. It’s a humble group who want to work hard and do well."