With Finn Russell exiled from the Scotland camp and Darcy Graham out injured, things are looking bleak for the national team. But where there is hope there remains a chance that Scotland could achieve an unlikely victory in Dublin.

Here are five things Gregor Townsend’s team must do if they are to achieve the seemingly impossible by coming out on top against Ireland on Saturday:

1 Fill the Finn Russell-sized hole in the heart of the team

Adam Hastings is the heir apparent of the No.10 jersey and is the closest thing to a like-for-like replacement for the missing talisman at Townsend’s disposal, but he is raw and prone to flights of fancy.

Scotland are in crisis mode and they need to box clever, so while Duncan Weir might be a sticking-plaster solution to a gaping wound, his temperament and kicking game could be invaluable. If Scotland are still in the battle after 60 minutes, then they will have done brilliantly – and they will have a chance of causing an upset. Weir could be the key to getting them to that point.

2 Start well

All who witnessed it will have that disastrous start to Scotland’s World Cup opener scarred into their memory for life.

Sadly, that wasn’t an isolated incident. Time and time again, the Scotland team have come hurtling out the traps at the start of big games like demented rabbits, only to find themselves standing under their own posts a few minutes later wondering what has gone wrong.

Invariably it is because they have chanced their arm – assuming that their speed and energy will be too much for the opposition – and been caught out.

Save the miracle passes for later in the game. Have some patience. Play the percentages. Do the simple things well. Build pressure.

That doesn’t mean opportunities should be passed up if they are presented in the opening minutes, but experience tells us that teams like Ireland don’t come into big games half asleep, so don’t play into their hands by imagining that they won’t be paying proper attention.

3 Get the set-piece right

Scrums and line-outs are ideal opportunities to launch attacks but first and foremost they are about retaining possession.

Defence is exhausting, so if you overthrow a clever line-out move against Ireland, or lose the nudge at a scrum, then there is every chance you will spend the next 10 minutes wrestling with giant green monsters, who are masters at retaining possession until the opposition are exhausted before ruthlessly taking advantage.

4 Focus on defence

Even if Scotland get the set-piece right, they are still certain to have long periods without the ball. Townsend’s team conceded four tries to Ireland and another four to Japan during the World Cup.

They also conceded an average of 3.5 tries per game in the last Six Nations, which if replicated in this tournament will mean they will have to average four tries if they want to win an average match, and that is a big ask against the likes of England, Wales and Ireland.

Scotland continually give themselves a mountain to climb by coughing up cheap scores. Don’t let Ireland’s big carriers build up a head of steam – stop them at source – Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson are going to be key.

5 Enjoy it

It doesn’t look like much fun being a Scotland player at the moment, and the Russell affair is not going to have helped – but you can’t perform near your peak if you are not in the right frame of mind.

The players need to block out the distractions of whatever has gone on in camp during the last six months and remember the reason why they wanted to get to where they are in the first place. The Six Nations is the greatest rugby show on earth – it is the dream of many and the privilege of few – grab the opportunity!

And that means players have to be given freedom to play their natural game – not be micro-managed from the side-lines.