This Six Nations will still be a missed opportunity even if Scotland win their final two games against Italy and France, believes Jamie Ritchie.
The back-rower from St Andrews feels the home losses to Wales and Ireland were down to different things but conceded that the expectation after the opening win against England had been far in excess than still having just the one win going into the final fortnight.
“I think it will still be a missed opportunity, whatever happens in the last two games,” he said. “We’ve still got these two games left, so there’s nothing to say we can’t finish at the higher end of the table.
“We’ve still taken a couple of bonus points from the games against Wales and Ireland. If we win these next two games, that could be vital.
“Obviously after the England game we were all pretty buzzing. We saw it as an opportunity to back it up.
“The Wales game didn’t really go to plan and, at the weekend, we were off the boil. There’s no reason why we can’t win these next two games and get back on track. But the question will be different if we win these next two games.
“You can’t look back, you can only look forward. The games against Wales and Ireland are gone, you can’t get them back now. So it’s on to the next two.”
‘They’ll see this game as an opportunity’
First up are the Italians, who have never beaten Scotland under Gregor Townsend and have just one win in the last nine years. Although they’ve had a “difficult” championship, Ritchie says they’ll be highly motivated.
“I don’t think the fact that they’ve had a certain amount of points scored against them creates pressure for us,” he said. “The only pressure that will come from that is they’ll be looking to get something out of this tournament.
“They’ll see this game as an opportunity to come at us. That is the only pressure that will come from the situation. We’ll just be looking to win the game, as we do every week.”
‘Any game in the Six Nations, we can win’
Scotland have moved on from the days when it used to be a tight game against the Italians in recent years, agreed Ritchie.
“I think it’s fair,” he said. “Any game in the Six Nations, we’re in a position now where if we put our best game together, we can win.
‘We showed that last year against France, who were on for a Grand Slam – we put a stop to that. We showed it this year by beating England, who were champions last year.
‘Wales are now on for a Grand Slam but we ran them pretty close with 14 men. Any team in the tournament, we see it as a game we can potentially win.”
The issues against Ireland won’t be repeated against Italy, he added.
“We struggle when we win two out of eight line-outs, that obviously put us under pressure. But, in terms of around the pitch, I wouldn’t say we were bullied.
“Our scrum worked really well. They got a few turnovers at breakdown but they’ve got some real quality individuals there.
“We knew Ireland would put us under pressure at the lineout but I think we prepared well for it during the week. There are a couple of things we could have done a lot better. Maybe the drill just wasn’t right – there were just some execution errors.”
‘We back up games’
Gaps between games – and now two games within six days – is no excuse either, believes Ritchie.
“We’re professional athletes,” he said. “This is what we do for a living, we back up games – it’s part of it.
“Obviously two six-day turnarounds in a row is difficult. It’s up to be as diligent as we possibly can be in terms of our recovery.
“It will be tough but the boys will be up for it.”