WHEN Scotland face Italy in Rome a week on Saturday, there will be one considerable difference for Gregor Townsend’s men.

In their opening two Six Nations fixtures, against Ireland and England, Scotland have gone in as underdogs. However, in Rome next weekend, the Scots will be heavy favourites, which is not always a tag Scottish teams wear lightly.

However, Jamie Ritchie insists he and his teammates must embrace the pressure that comes with expectation and produce a match-winning performance, which is something they’ve failed to do over the past fortnight.

“Italy probably pose us a challenge where we’re going in as favourites which we probably haven’t had the last two weeks. If that is pressure, we need to take it on the chin and take it perform,” the back row said.

“We prepare (the same) for any game and we back ourselves against any opposition. You saw in the last two weeks that if we’d got a few more things right, we’d have won those games.

“We’ll be going in with the same mindset and looking to put those wrongs right.”

However, the Edinburgh Rugby man is also aware that it will be a tough, physical battle against the Italians.

“We know they’ll come with a lot of passion, especially at home,” he said.

“It’s potentially Sergio Parisse’s swansong, and they’re always a passionate group. For whatever reason, they always seem to target our game. We know what’s coming, it’s on their home patch and we need to perform away from home.”

Scotland’s major downfall against England on Saturday, where the visitors ran out 13-6 winners to regain the Calcutta Cup, was missed opportunities.

Storm Ciara battered Murrayfield Stadium with gale-force winds and driving rain, making it almost impossible to play attractive rugby.

However, while the weather excuses some of the mistakes made by both teams, it does not justify them all. And, Ritchie admits, if he and his compatriots are to beat teams like England and Ireland, and even Italy, they must convert their chances into points much more consistently than they are currently doing.

“It was one of those games,” the 23-year-old said of the England clash.

“It kind of came down to who made the fewest mistakes and there was a lot of close-quarters contact. There was a bit of a back-row battle, just trying to get the ball back.

“We work on (turning chances into tries) during the week.

“When teams defend their line, it’s often very, very well. For us, we just need to stay patient and hold the ball a wee bit longer.

“Often you rely on trying to force a penalty in there, have the opportunity to try and kick or to kick the three. Just something different to try and break up the game.

“Because it was so wet on Saturday, the game was so slow. It needs to be tight, the opposition are expecting you to do one-pass plays and they are the easiest to defend.

“We’re here to win as many games as we can, and looking and the last two weeks, we had opportunities to win both those games. We were very much in them. For us, it’s about finishing us those opportunities.”

Ritchie personally had a solid afternoon at Murrayfield, which is not to be sniffed at considering he was up against an impressive England back-row of Sam Underhill, Tom Curry and Lewis Ludlam. And so despite the disappointment of a second Six Nations defeat in as many weeks, Ritchie insists there are positives that can be drawn from the weekend

“When we saw (England’s) team, we knew that was where they were going to try and come. We dealt with that quite well, and a big improvement from Ireland was our speed to contact and winning our own ball back,” he said.

“That’s something we can take out of the game. Sam, Tom and Lewis are all very good operators, very good players and we’ve a lot of respect for them. That’s how they wanted to target the game, but I thought we nullified that threat pretty well.”