You know times are tough when a trip to Rome is being talked up as one that is fraught with danger for Ireland.
Italy's Six Nations losing streak now stands at 29 consecutive games, they have conceded 91 points in the opening two rounds of this year's tournament, while they are in the middle of a major rebuild as they blood much younger, less experienced players.
Taking all that into consideration, this weekend should, in theory at least, be an ideal chance for Ireland to fine-tune certain elements of their game that have let them down, particularly their attack.
For all of Italy's continued struggles, there have been signs of what they are trying to do under Franco Smith, a well-regarded tactician.
That his team have scored more tries (three), made more clean breaks (14) and thrown more offloads (12) than Ireland should not be glossed over without looking at the calibre of players and coaches in each side.
During his three years in charge of Italy's attack, Mike Catt, along with Conor O'Shea, were unable to turn Italy's fortunes around and the scale of the task Smith has on his hands has arguably become even more difficult when you look at the wretched form of both Zebre and Benetton, who remain without a PRO14 win this season.
Catt will return to the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday for the first time since he left to join Ireland following the 2019 World Cup and he will do so with mounting pressure on his shoulders.
In the 11 games he has been employed as Ireland's attack coach, we are yet to determine what exactly Catt's philosophy is.
Instead, the evidence thus far has been hugely underwhelming as the game-plan remains stale, which is a major concern given this is still a relatively new backroom team.
When the IRFU announced the Catt's appointment, David Nucifora hailed the man handed the unenviable task of replacing the tactical acumen of Joe Schmidt.
Nucifora pointed to Catt's "wealth of experience" and how he had "been operating at the highest level of the international game for some time", while the union's performance director also spoke of how the former England international was "a smart and innovative player", who he believed to be a "talented practitioner."
It was quite the praise for an attack coach, who since being run out of England after the disastrous 2015 home World Cup, had been working with an Italian team going backwards at a rate of knots.
The 49-year-old might well be the talented practitioner that Nucifora claimed he was in the summer of 2019, but Ireland haven't seen much evidence of it just yet.
It was a big call from Andy Farrell to include Catt in his coaching staff, and speaking last week, the Ireland boss did not hide his concerns over the problems surrounding the attack
Like Farrell, Catt was given a contract until the end of the 2023 World Cup, whereas other nations such as New Zealand and Wales took a more cautious approach in offering their new head coaches two-year deals before committing to the full cycle.
Farrell and Catt go back years together and are close friends, but the head man really needs his mate to start delivering, in much the same way as Paul O'Connell and John Fogarty have solidified the set-piece.
One of the big things that Catt spoke about bringing to the Ireland set-up was improving how players scan and see situations unfolding depending on what the defence throws up. In other words, 'heads up rugby', which admittedly is a loose enough term. You cannot legislate for players making poor decisions and not playing what they see in front of them, yet questions must be asked why that is the case: is it down to the player or the system they are playing in?
In their opening Six Nations defeats, Ireland have had enough possession and territory to pose more questions than they have of the opposition, yet more often than not, they have looked completely rudderless.
The easy option is to point to the chopping and changing of the half-backs, but that in itself is part of the problem.
Under Catt, Ireland have, at times, looked to be playing a 1-3-3-1 shape, although there have been some signs that they are attempting to move more towards 1-3-2-2, so as to get an extra forward (often Peter O'Mahony when he is in the team) to the wide 15-metre channel.
Such has been the sloppy nature of Ireland's attack, however, it has been difficult to decipher the exact shape.
It's unclear if the players are comfortable in what is being asked of them as soon as they get into the attacking shape because their execution and decision-making under pressure has been a long way short of the standards they demand of themselves.
We saw a glaring example of that early on in the defeat to France when Ireland stole a lineout and with the backline stacked outside of Billy Burns, the out-half opted to kick the ball away for a 50-50 contestable.
It wasn't just off turnover ball that Ireland looked to that risky tactic, as on a couple of occasions they took the aerial route off good clean first-phase ball. Under Schmidt, Ireland were extremely prescriptive and as much as Farrell has tried to move away from that strict approach and empower players to make decisions for themselves, a better balance is needed.
Without the intricate set-piece moves that were a hallmark of Schmidt's intellect, Ireland are desperately lacking a cutting edge under Catt, who hasn't yet come up with the kind of clever power plays that had supporters getting up off their seat when the Kiwi was in charge.
That said, comparing Catt to Schmidt is unfair, but Ireland should not be happy to accept such a drastic dip in their attacking invention, with two tries in two games, one of which came about from a lucky bounce, highlighting the issues at hand.
For all that this Ireland team, which is full of quality, do have it in them to score plenty of tries in Rome this weekend, doing so against a team who haven't won a Six Nations match since 2015 will only tell us so much.
Instead, the remaining games away to Scotland and at home to England will paint a clearer picture of where exactly the attack stands, after Catt has had two Six Nations and an Autumn Nations Cup campaign to prove he is the 'talented practitioner' Ireland desperately need.