WORLD CUP hopeful Jamie Ritchie says he is looking forward to a step-change in intensity in the Scotland camp during the next week, as the first of the team’s four warm-up matches – against France in Nice on 17th August – looms over the horizon.
“I am sure it will start to pick up this week,” said the flanker. “We are doing more contact and training is getting a bit more physical which is always good fun. It is coming in quickly.
“Everyone is in better shape, everyone fitter. The performance scores are getting better. You can feel the change and you feel less tired at the end of the day. It is getting harder, but you can see the boys are in much better nick. They are good at managing us and there is a lot of science behind what we do. It is not just flogging for the sake of it.”
Having signed his first full-time pro contract with Edinburgh straight out of school five years ago, Ritchie has been on the periphery of full international recognition from some time, but his stock has really soared during the last two seasons since the arrival of Richard Cockerill as the capital side’s head coach.
Edinburgh are now a team with a real sense of purpose and Ritchie is one of several players at the club to have their careers, and their international prospects, invigorated as a direct consequence.
He made his long-awaited Scotland debut against Canada last summer, and with John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson, Magnus Bradbury, Blade Thomson, Matt Fagerson and Sam Skinner missing some or all of last season’s international matches through injury, the 22-year-old has grabbed his opportunity by producing a series of abrasive performances during the Autumn Tests and Six Nations which really solidified his international credentials (although he missed the final match of that campaign with a shoulder/neck injury).
“Personally, I am champing at the bit to get a game as it is a while since I last played and I am looking forward to getting back into it,” said Ritchie.
“We have been with Scotland since the middle of July so that is the thing that is most different for me. It has been enjoyable, it has been good, it has been new faces, new training regime. But itis [about] how you play on a Test match day. You can be the strongest person in the gym, you can run the most but if you don’t get on the pitch and perform then you are not going to go [to the World Cup].”
With everyone now fit again, Ritchie knows he is in a battle to secure a slot in the 31-man squad for Japan, especially as he operated in one of the areas of the park where Gregor Townsend and his coaching team have most strength in depth to select from.
“For me, the only thing I can do is concentrate on myself,” he said. “I am not looking at anyone else, I am not worrying about what they are doing in training, just making sure I am doing anything I get the chance to play to the best of my ability. I am working as hard as I can, but there are obviously guys who are going to be disappointed. You are starting to feel the heat a little bit now but: what will be, will be.”