With another World Cup looming, Scotland were once again reminded on Saturday of the difference between matches against minnows and matches that matter, but whether there is a capacity to learn what this team must remains moot after another failure against one of the world’s leading teams and its main pool rival in Japan.

A vulnerable Irish side that had been over-powered by England the previous week and still looked a shadow of that which, just a few short months ago, beat the All Blacks while completing a calendar year in which just one defeat had been suffered in 13 matches, was deprived before the interval of the controlling knowhow of the man considered the world’s best player and who had helped his team into a commanding first half lead.

Yet it was Ireland that waxed the stronger as the game went on, Joey Carberry bringing different, but ultimately also game winning abilities to the fray after replacing the aforementioned Johnny Sexton, as the Scotland camp’s confidence in both its philosophy and fitness were once again called into question.

A week after the late collapse against a poor Italy side which almost cost the team the unprecedented experience of topping the table at the end of a Six Nations weekend, just three points were generated in the second half against opponents who defied suggestions that age is taking its toll upon them, without doing much that was special to maintain control in denying their hosts a bonus point while winning 22-13. The exception to that was Carberry’s blistering break and perfectly weighted scoring pass to Keith Earls which meant they spent most of the final quarter with the cushion of a two score advantage that was retained to the end, the replacement stand off making up for his earlier error that had allowed Finn Russell to set up Scotland’s only try for Sam Johnson.

In delivering the scoring pass for that try, Russell demonstrated a composure that bore testimony to the benefits he has gained from his move to France to join Racing 92. Always a player who has boasted sublime skills, the addition of discipline has been long overdue after his years of being indulged in an environment where positive reinforcement is valued over all else.

That Johnson was rewarded with a try was no more than his efforts have deserved either, the Australian-born centre’s rugby intelligence exemplified by his realisation that the support line he was running had been cut off, resulting in the just in time adjustment, that allowed him to receive the grounded Russell’s sublimely sympathetic off-load. However in overall terms the setting and outcome invited further examination of the methods being pursued after 18 months in which old Scottish values have been reinstilled to great effect in Edinburgh by Englishman Richard Cockerill who has recognised the limitations of a structure which draws from a tiny section of an already small population, supplementing it with imports, so has come up with gameplans to suit.

By contrast, the man in charge of the Scotland team re-stated commitment to a playing style which, admittedly, has produced one win over higher rated opposition in England and two against a struggling Australia, but has come unstuck against New Zealand, South Africa, Wales twice and Ireland twice.

“Our gameplan is based on what we want to do and that was the pleasing aspect for today, we were up against a team that are fit, but we were able to play the way we wanted to play in attack and in the first half that brought rewards,” was Gregor Townsend’s assessment of a match in which Scotland trailed at half-time because of the horrible defensive mix-up that permit and a superbly crafted second Irish try that sae Peter O’Mahoney and Sexton combine to release the lethal Jacob Stockdale.

“Whether against France we have to be different, France jackal a lot more in contact… but we’re not going to change the way we play the game,” Townsend continued.

Staunch in those convictions, then, he inevitably contended that it was not what Scotland had set out to do that was any part of the problem, but the failure to do it all as well as was necessary.

“It’s more the execution of those ideas, putting on myself that the plays can be run smoothly, that we have the right bodies at the breakdown and also that the right bodies are in the right positions,” he said, when asked whether new ideas were required.

“You’re always tested at Test level with games back to back that you have parts of your game that cover everything. Four out of five areas we did very well, but that one out of five is the thing we have to do much better in Paris.”

In most walks of life an 80 per cent success rate would be considered a success, but the margins narrow according to the level of risk undertaken and that is the path this Scotland regime has chosen to follow.

Thankfully there was no real amplification of the strange insinuations contained within captain Greig Laidlaw’s immediate post-match observation that he and his team “don’t seem to see eye to eye,” with French referee Romain Poite, comments that will only fuel the type of lazy analysis that has blighted Scottish rugby for too many years, making for an environment in which excuse-making is more prevalent than examining the real problems that undermine the national team’s chances of making improvement.

For the most part, the messages coming out of the camp instead focused on the latest catalogue of self-inflicted injuries that contributed to their defeat, which most obviously included the fankle that Tommy Seymour and Sean Maitland - selected on the wings ahead of last week’s hat-trick scorer Blair Kinghorn partly because of their long-established understanding - got into to let Conor Murray stroll over for the game’s opening try and the way Rob Harley and Allan Dell effectively negated one another’s attempts to tackle Carberry ahead of that crucial second half try. However, insisting on seeking both to attack and defend at the highest possible pace means gambling repeatedly and able, composed opponents know they can capitalise on that.

The methods being pursued may, then, continue to produce the odd big win, but repeatedly, when tested either by the best or, more particularly, outwith the favourable conditions generated when the majority in attendance are urging success, the evidence of their efficacy is far from encouraging.

Another telling examination now approaches with a visit from title chasing Wales, sandwiched by trips to Paris, scene of two Scottish wins in 50 years and Twickenham, where four have been recorded in 108.

Winning a World Cup, something Scottish Rugby’s strategists claimed they were on course to do four years ago, would require the equivalent of winning all three of those in a similar timeframe and, since seeing is believing - other than when blind faith pertains - time is running out to prove that Scotland has the slightest chance of doing so.