SCOTLAND number eight Ryan Wilson wants to “right the wrongs” of their Twickenham nightmare when they face Italy and claim their highest-ever Six Nations finish.
The Scots’ 61-21 defeat by England cast a dark shadow over a campaign previously rich in promise, garnished by home wins over Ireland and Wales.
A third win at Murrayfield on Saturday would be only the second time since the Six Nations era stared in 2000 that Scotland have won three games in the same season, the only other time coming in 2006.
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That year also saw one of three third-place finishes, along with 2001 and 2013 – Scotland’s highest to date since Five Nations became Six .
A bonus-point win over Italy, combined with a Wales win in France without a bonus point and Ireland failing to beat England would see the Scots finish second.
“At the beginning of this campaign I said to get three home wins would be a massive thing for us,” said Wilson, who has recovered from a bad head knock sustained against England. “We’re on track to get that and if we finish second then it will be a successful campaign because we will finish higher than we ever have.
“What happened last week was unacceptable in a Scotland shirt. We’re excited to right the wrongs, go out and put in a good performance at home. We need to go out with all guns blazing - start well and carry it on for 80 minutes. “Playing at home in front of a sold-out crowd, the first time we’ve sold out Italy, is testament to how well we are doing. People want to come and watch a good brand of rugby. Getting the win will put us up there in the table and it is a huge game all round.”
Much of the pre-match talk has inevitably focused on Scotland head coach Vern Cotter’s final game in charge, before the New Zealander hands over to Glasgow’s Gregor Townsend this summer.
Cotter has been at pains to point out that his own position should not be a factor. “We have had a strict word from him: it’s not all about him,” confirmed Wilson, who nevertheless praised the progress the Kiwi has seen in three years at the helm.
“I think everyone can see the work Vern has put in. The culture has changed. We were always that team that was nearly there before. I think we’ve got over that hurdle now. We’re winning tight games and if we are in it in the last 30 minutes, we know we can grind a win out.”
The Scots were forced into a late change on Friday with Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist replacing Richie Gray, who has failed to overcome a hamstring strain.
Tim Swinson, Scotland’s replacement lock in all four matches to date, remains on the bench with Gilchrist, 26, set for only his second Six Nations match – the first since his debut against France in Paris four years ago.
“We felt Tim would be better to start on the bench, and Grant – with the things he offers around the pitch – would be better suited to start,” said resource coach Nathan Hines, also involved for a final time before joining Cotter’s coaching staff at French club Montpellier next season.
“I’m not worried about my last game,” Hines added. “I just want the boys to get a win and prove to themselves they are the team they were before last weekend.
“One bad game doesn’t make you a bad team, and this is an opportunity to show that.”