Jamie Ritchie demands big finish as Scotland aim for third place in Six Nations

Jamie Ritchie believes a strong performance against Italy and a third-place finish behind the top two sides in the world will seal a positive Six Nations campaign for Scotland.

Back-to-back defeats by France, ranked second in the world, and the top-ranked Ireland mean Scotland can no longer claim silverware from a tournament that started with wins over England and Wales.

But Ritchie feels there is still plenty at stake going into Saturday’s campaign finale at BT Murrayfield as Gregor Townsend’s side bid to make it three wins out of five and finish third for the first time since 2018.

“I outlined our goal of five good performances and I think we’re at three and a half just now,” said the captain. “To get it up to four and a half would be good so we’re looking for a strong performance. To secure that third place outright would be a positive.

“We shouldn’t change our application based on the opposition. For us it’s about maintaining the same standards and trying to put out our best performance, which I don’t think we’ve done yet.

“I don’t think we’ve put out that complete 80-minute performance so tomorrow’s the day, hopefully.”

Ritchie believes it would represent a solid building block ahead of the World Cup in the autumn if Scotland can get the win that all but guarantees they will finish as best of the rest behind the two clear big-hitters.

“Arguably against France for the majority of the game we were the team in the ascendancy,” he said, pointing out Scotland had troubled the world’s elite. “We put ourselves under pressure with a slow start but for huge parts of that game, I certainly believed we could go on and win it.

“There will be a huge amount of positives to take out of the tournament.”

Italy have lost all four of their matches but Ritchie is adamant they will be a dangerous opponent this weekend.

“They’ll be frustrated that they’ve played a lot of really good rugby and run a couple of good teams close but not converted that into results,” he said.

“They come here with nothing to lose. They’re always a passionate team but there might be a little bit more passion because they enjoy playing against us, they target this game.

“We know there will be a challenge coming against potentially the best Italy team we’ve ever played, so we need to be ready.”

Scotland v Ireland – Guinness Six Nations – BT Murrayfield Stadium
Scotland lost to Grand Slam-chasing Ireland last weekend (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scotland will go into a Six Nations match for the first time since 2019 without either Stuart Hogg or Finn Russell after the two influential backs pulled out with injuries that forced them off against Ireland last weekend. Their places are taken by Ollie Smith and Blair Kinghorn respectively, and Ritchie has been impressed with the way others in the squad have stepped up this week since the experienced pair left the camp.

“Although the changes have been enforced, that little bit of new blood and new energy into the group from guys who have been chomping at the bit for an opportunity is just what we needed in that short week,” said Ritchie.

“A lot of guys are stepping up to lead who have maybe been waiting in the wings or staying more quiet, so it’s been good.”