Gregor Townsend has called on Scotland to banish recent disappointments by finishing their Guinness Six Nations tournament with a flourish.
The Scots had high hopes going into the tournament but, after beating England in the first game, they saw their title hopes dashed with back-to-back defeats against Wales and France.
Townsend’s team finish up with two away matches, against Italy in Rome this Saturday and Ireland in Dublin next weekend.
The head coach is hoping they can produce a level of performance in those games that underlines why there was so much optimism going into this year’s Six Nations.
“The tournament has not gone as we hoped or planned so far, that’s for sure,” he said. “We’ve suffered two defeats which are disappointing.
“We know in both those games we could have played better, specifically in the last game against France when there were some moments that could have changed the flow of the game if we’d made the most of them and not allowed France to make the most of their opportunities.
“That was frustrating. But we have two games, two big tests away from home, and the players are all set on working to deliver their best performance.
“We feel if we get our performance right, we’re a match for any team in the world. We know that going away against a full crowd is going to be another test of who we are and that’s what we aim to show this weekend.”
Scotland have a good record in Italy, but Townsend wants to see a strong start this weekend.
“We need to put our own game in place and be accurate and disciplined with that,” he said. “We also need to not give any easy ways for Italy to get into the game. We know they’ll play with a lot of passion and aggression.
“The last two occasions when we played in Florence and in Rome, they were the better team in the first half hour of the game. We managed to come back and win both games but we can’t let that happen this time. We’ve got to make sure we win moments at the beginning and the end of the game.”
Townsend is delighted to have Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson back after the key duo missed the defeat by France through illness and injury respectively.
“Hamish and Matt played really well down in Wales and both of them played really well against England so it’s a boost to have those two back in our squad,” he said.