The Scots have never won more than three matches in a single championship season since Italy joined the expanded competition in 2000. Their last title win came in 1999, the final year of the Five Nations.
Ritchie, captaining Scotland for the first time in the championship, was part of the side that beat England away in 2021 and at home last year and he exuded a quiet confidence at Friday’s pre-match press conference inside Twickenham. “I was asked what a good Six Nations would look like for us and I said five strong performances,” said the flanker. “If we get that right then there's no reason why we can't beat any team in this competition. It's about doing it week after week and game after game. For us it’s about concentrating on England and whatever comes out of that it will be Wales the following week where we'll be looking to have another strong performance.”
It’s the third year in a row that Scotland have kicked off their campaign with a Calcutta Cup match but last year’s 20-17 win in Edinburgh came at a cost for Ritchie, who suffered a ruptured hamstring which kept him out for the remainder of the season. “It was probably a wee bit bittersweet,” he said. “I think I came off after 58 minutes and I was in the changing room for a wee bit but I came out and I managed to watch the rest of the game, then hobbled on to the sidelines to congratulate the boys then went off to hospital straight afterwards. I didn’t know how serious it was but I knew I had done something bad.”
Scotland won 11-6 in 2021 at Twickenham in a game played without supporters due to the Covid pandemic. Ritchie said he appreciated it all the more given the restrictive circumstances. “Most of my memories are from the changing room afterwards and how good a feeling it was, and where we were in the world at the time, us having the ability to do what we were doing as a group, spending a lot of time together and having that opportunity to represent our nation was something really special,” he said. “I remember a real togetherness, and that feeling when we won in the changing room afterwards was really special.”