JAMIE RITCHIE will again miss out on an Edinburgh match today [Saturday] as he continues his recovery from concussion. The blindside flanker, who was also absent from his team’s defeat by Glasgow last week, must now be considered a doubt for the start of Scotland’s Six Nations campaign, although Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill did sound cautiously hopeful yesterday after announcing his team for the PRO14 match against Zebre in Parma.
However, today’s game is Edinburgh’s last before the Championship begins, meaning that even if Ritchie is eventually passed fit for the Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham a fortnight today, he will by then have gone more than a month without a game. The blindside forward last played in the home win over the Warriors on 2 January.
“He hasn’t recovered sufficiently to be considered for selection.” Cockerill said of Ritchie. “It’s right to be cautious, and we’ve got good back-row depth in the squad, so the sensible thing is to make sure that he’s 100 per cent right. Regardless of what fixtures are coming up, it’s certainly something that we take very seriously.”
A fortnight is in theory ample time for Ritchie to pass whatever tests are required, but there is no accurate way of judging his chances of being declared fit. His fellow-internationals Richie Gray and Pete Horne have had similar problems this season, and although Gray is now back playing and in impressive form for Glasgow, his Warriors team-mate Horne remains sidelined.
Rory Sutherland has also been left out of Cockerill’s team for the trip to Italy, but in his case the coach is confident he will be available to face England. “He’s got a slight stiff back – nothing too serious, but he’s not fit,” the coach said of the loosehead prop, then added “Definitely” when asked if Sutherland would be fit for Twickenham.
Wingers Duhan van der Merwe and Darcy Graham are also missing from the Edinburgh side, through injury and personal reasons respectively, but as things stand both should be available to national Gregor Townsend. Ben Toolis, who was omitted from the squad of 35 announced by the national coach in midweek, continues to be sidelined with a foot injury.
Scrum-half Nic Groom, who mistook a hoot from a passing train as the signal for half-time at Scotstoun last week, has been left out of the 23. Henry Pyrgos takes over the No 9 jersey and Charlie Shiel returns to the squad as back-up.
Cockerill admitted he had had words with Groom, whose decision to kick the ball out of play led to Glasgow scoring a penalty before the break. But the coach insisted that his squad selection for this week had not been a disciplinary issue.
“No, it’s nothing to do with that at all. It’s just Charlie Shiel’s a good player and he needs to be involved. It’s all part of the rotation process.
“We made it very clear [to Groom] that there are no hooters in the northern hemisphere, and whoever was shouting ‘Kick it out! Kick it out!’ – don’t do that unless you know the time. It’s as simple as that: a bit of common sense.”
Cockerill added that the shout in question had come from a team-mate of Groom’s, but declined to identify the culprit.