The recent history of the Scotland rugby team has been a pattern of soaring pre-tournament expectations followed by deep despondency when reality has bitten down hard – but the mood before this Six Nations is very different.

With the painful memory of that early World Cup exit still fresh in the mind (having occurred only three months ago), and the abrupt walk-out of Finn Russell last month depriving the side of one of Europe’s top attacking talents, the overriding feeling for those with an emotional investment in the team ahead of this afternoon’s championship opener against Ireland in Dublin is of foreboding.

It is going to be fascinating to see how the players react to all the negative energy surrounding them – which they insist they are immune to but are clearly aware of.

Will it spur them on to produce a performance which will confound expectations? Or will they buckle under the pressure of having to conjure momentum out of nothing?

“Write us off all you want, but if we get the detail right, stand firm and solid in defence, then we will give ourselves every chance,” insisted Stuart Hogg, the team’s new captain. “I truly believe this 23 can go out and win this Test match.

“We have been written off, no one can back us because no one believes we can come across here and win because we have not won here since 2010 and that hurts, but we believe in the detail and the structure we have been given and we believe in ourselves. The boys have been preparing well and we feel as though we are in a good place.

“Over the course of the last couple of weeks we’ve had a real look at ourselves and assessed what happened during the World Cup, when we felt we beat ourselves a lot – but we can’t change what has happened in the past and we need to move on. We are very much in control of what happens in the future and we are looking to start well against Ireland.

“It does feel like a fresh start. We have a new defence coach [Steve Tandy], a new scrum coach [Pieter de Villiers] and a new philosophy too.

“A number of experienced players retired at the back end of the World Cup – namely Greig Laidlaw, John Barclay and Tommy Seymour – but it gives an opportunity for the young boys to come in and take their opportunity. It’s up to them to show what they’re about. The big thing for me is that we’re confident in each other’s ability, and we’re confident as a collective unit.”

Ireland did not have a great World Cup either, although they did at least reach the quarter-final stage before losing to New Zealand. They have a new head coach in Andy Farrell, a new captain in Jonny Sexton, and are full of cautious talk about this being a period of transition.

But the fact they have been able to name a team which leaves 2017 Lions heroes Peter O’Mahony and Robbie Henshaw on the bench gives an indication that they are in good shape for a serious tilt at the championship.

It was, of course, Ireland who obliterated Scotland’s lofty World Cup aspirations with an opening weekend thumping in Yokohama in September, but Hogg is adamant that there is no enduring psychological baggage attached to that.

“It was painful [at the time] and it was tough to look back, but we’ve moved on,” he said. “We pride ourselves on our defence and at times during the World Cup it was nowhere near good enough, but we have changed our [defence] coach and our

philosophy, and tomorrow is our first chance to test ourselves.

“We also coughed up the ball too often against Ireland in the World Cup. We beat ourselves and that’s what we need to learn. We have to play in the right areas and off-load in the right areas. Our kicking game will be massive as we know we need to control territory.

“We need to concentrate on ourselves, it’s our attack and our defence. We are fully aware of what’s coming at us and the challenges that await; they have

some world-class individuals and a world-class coaching staff, but that’s a challenge for us to embrace – it’s the reason we all picked up a ball as a kid.

“The boys have been in a good bit of form since the World Cup. Glasgow Warriors are going well, Edinburgh are going well, and the exile boys are playing with some good teams. We are in the best place we can possibly be post World Cup.

“We can’t be in the same situation time and time again, so we need to learn from it and quick.”