JAMIE Ritchie has declared it would be an “amazing” honour if he were to be offered the Scotland captaincy by Gregor Townsend, but insisted that he had already realised a childhood dream simply by being selected for the national team in the first place.
The Edinburgh back-row forward is now just a few weeks away from his return to action, having all but completed his rehab from the serious hamstring injury sustained in February’s Calcutta Cup match which ruled him out for the rest of last season. Although he will only turn 26 next month, Ritchie has been a senior leader with both club and country for some time now. Given Gregor Townsend’s insistence that he had yet to decide on a captain for the Autumn Internationals, an impressive start to the season by Ritchie could well catapult him to the forefront of the national coach’s list of candidates.
Stuart Hogg has skippered the side for much of the time since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but did not go on the summer tour to South America. Grant Gilchrist was captain when the squad set off, but Hamish Watson ended up with the honour in the third Test against Argentina. Those changes suggest that the office is going through a period of transition, and if Townsend decides it is time to opt for longer-term stability, someone of Ritchie’s age and evident value to the team could well fit the bill.
“If I get asked, it would be amazing,” Ritchie said yesterday at the launch of the capital club’s new sponsorship agreement with Uhuru Rum. “It’s not something I’m going to hang my hat on and be like: ‘Yeah, I definitely want to do it or else I’m not playing’.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t dream about being captain of Scotland. I just dreamed of playing for Scotland and that, for me, was always the goal.
“If you get offered that honour of being captain, then great. I think we have loads of good leaders. You could probably pick from five or six boys who have done a good job.
“I thought Mish (Watson) coming in and doing it in Argentina was awesome. I was really chuffed for him.
“It’s always been something that I’ve enjoyed around the game, the leadership aspect. Captaining teams at school and age grade was always something that I felt I was OK at.
“I guess it is something that you have naturally, but it’s also something that needs to be worked on. It’s something that I enjoy, whether as a captain or not as a captain. If something needs to be said, that’s leadership.”
As Hogg discovered in the wake of the defeat by Ireland that saw Scotland’s Six Nations campaign end on a low note, the captain is often the player who takes the rap when things go wrong. Such exposure to criticism can be a daunting factor for some candidates for captaincy, but Ritchie insisted that would hold no fears for him.
“Would it put me off it?,” he continued. “No, I don’t think it would. I don’t see my own value based around what people would say on social media.
“My self-worth comes from me, the people I care about, my family and my team-mates. So long as they’re not the ones who are saying whatever expletives people would use on line, I’m not really too worried.”
Ritchie’s injury meant he missed out on much of Mike Blair’s first season as Edinburgh coach, in which the capital club embraced a new, attacking style. He was particularly annoyed to miss out on the business end of the campaign after having restricted opportunities to turn out for the team during the two previous, Covid-affected seasons, but he was close enough to proceedings to appreciate how much morale has improved under the new boss.
“It was a bit frustrating, because we had a decent amount of success towards the end of the year as well – we had those big games that I missed out on,” he added. “I was on track to play more games for Edinburgh last season than I had for the previous two seasons, because there hadn’t been that many.
“Then I got injured, so it was a bit frustrating. The two seasons prior to last I played maybe eight or nine games for Edinburgh – I would have loved to play a bit more.
“So that was frustrating, but it was also great to watch the boys experience that and hear it from outside the bubble.”
Jamie Ritchie was speaking at the launch of Edinburgh’s new sponsorship agreement with Uhuru Rum, who have become the club’s kit sponsors and official rum partners. The capital-based independent bottlers have signed a two-year sponsorship deal and will have their logo featured on the club’s home and alternate Macron match kit, which is set to be revealed later this summer.
As part of the sponsorship, Uhuru Rum will also develop a new rum cocktail bar based in the DAM Health Stadium fan zone on match days.