The Six Nations referees list is out. And yet again, Wayne Barnes has been assigned to referee the Wales-Ireland match. The Six Nations Council clearly love giving Barnes this game. It is the 6th time in 10 years that the English official has been handed the fixture.
Of the five matches since 2008, Ireland have won two games, the Grand Slam game in 2009 and the crushing 26-3 victory in Dublin in 2014.
Two years ago, a large proportion of the Irish fanbase decided that Barnes screwed Ireland over in Cardiff, costing them the Grand Slam. While this surely had its roots in sour grapes (Welsh supporters tended towards the view that Barnes gave a flawless refereeing performance) Ireland did ship a striking amount of penalties in the early part of the match.
It's a tawdry business, totting up our win-loss record under a specific referee. It's unbecoming of rugby men. There's always a whingy subtext.
But Gerry Thornley has, for a long time, banged the drum that Barnes usually spells doom for Ireland. Prior to the 2013 Six Nations, he remarked that Ireland had only one from six Six Nations games under Barnes's direction. However, he noted that Barnes would be refereeing Ireland's trips to Murrayfield and Rome that year and so there was a decent chance that record would improve. Ireland proceeded to lose away to both Scotland and Italy for the first time in the Six Nations. Neither defeat could be pinned on the referee, we hasten to add.
Under Joe Schmidt, Ireland have had a better record with Barnes, winning at home to Wales in 2014 and France in 2015.
What of the other games? French referee Roman Poite, long resented in Munster, has been handed the whistle for Ireland's opener in Murrayfield. New Zealand referee Glen Jackson will be in charge for Ireland's trip to Rome.
Ireland-France in Dublin will be overseen by the world's most lionised referee, Nigel Owens. Our final game against England - the final match of the competition - will be refereed by Jerome Garces, the same referee who managed Ireland's recent win over Australia but also the RWC quarter-final against Argentina last year.