“We will go into it believing we can win every game”: Jamie Ritchie looks ahead to the Six Nations

Jamie Ritchie
Jamie Ritchie leads from the front for Edinburgh against the Bulls on his comeback from injury. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

IT DID not take Jamie Ritchie long to prove that he is back to his dynamic best after recovering from injury. Making his comeback for Edinburgh against the Bulls last week, the Scotland captain took the game to the South Africans right from the opening exchanges, and was a key player for the capital side as they went on to win their fourth game in five URC outings.

And, following the personal as well as collective disappointment at the Rugby World Cup, it has not taken Ritchie long to regain his sense of measured optimism. His involvement in the tournament in France ended in the first quarter of the game against Ireland when he damaged a shoulder, and his team’s involvement ended at full-time in that defeat. But, a month and a half later, the 27-year-old back-row forward feels able to look ahead to next year’s Six Nations in a hopeful mood.

Edinburgh coach Sean Everitt suggested the key to Scottish success in the Championship would be a fit Ritchie at the top of his form. Speaking to the media for the first time since the World Cup, Ritchie admitted to being flattered by the suggestion, but countered that everyone in the squad would have to be close to their best for that to happen

That is kind of Sean,” he said when reminded of the coach’s prediction. “I hope so, definitely. What you want is everybody playing well, and if I am fit and healthy and playing well, hopefully I can contribute just the same as anybody else to help Scotland win. 

“That’s the goal for us. It will be tough, as it always is, in the Six Nations. But we will go into it believing we can win every game – but there are things we need to learn coming off the back of the World Cup that hopefully we can implement come Six Nations time.

“The tournament was frustrating for me personally – it was not how I wanted my World Cup to go. As a team we were disappointed with going out early, but we’ve moved on from that now.”

Ritchie seems certain to remain Scotland skipper going into the Championship – “I’ve not been told I don’t have the job,” was his reply when asked if Scotland coach Gregor Townsend had told him he was still the captain. But he is no longer Edinburgh captain, Everitt having decided that he has enough on his plate with those national duties.

If he was irked by the coach’s decision to give the job jointly to Ben Vellacott and Grant Gilchrist, it did not show either in his reply when asked if he understood Everitt’s reasoning, or in his performance on the pitch in that win against the Bulls. “I met with Sean just after we got back from the World Cup and said, ‘Look, whether I’m captain or not, you’ll get the same from me in terms of how I’ll be around the place,’” he explained.  

“If you decide not to make me captain, that’s fine. If you do, that’s fine. And whatever the decision, I’ll support whoever is. That’s all I can do.

“The biggest part of leadership and captaincy for me is being yourself. And that shouldn’t change whether you have the armband or not. 

“It’s nice to concentrate on playing and be a bit more selfish in my preparation when I’m here. And then it means if I’m still captain of Scotland I can throw all my efforts into that when we get back into camp.”

More immediately, of course, there is a URC campaign to engage Ritchie’s attentions. Edinburgh have got off to a reassuringly start in the league with four wins from their first five games, and as he looks ahead to that 100th outing against Benetton Ritchie is sure they are now firmly on the right track.

“It’s my 10th season, nine years. It’s taken me a wee while to get to 100. I got to 50 in Cockers’ first year – it’s taken me a while since then.

“Making it is really special. This club has been part of my whole adult life. I’ve been here since I finished school  seen people come and go, but the club has been part of my whole adult life and it means a great deal to me. I’ve grown up here, so for me it will be a very special moment to run out for my 100.

“I hate to speak too early, but I feel we’re building. And we’ve had some results that have gone to the death that in the past may not have gone our way – but we’ve found ways to win these games, which is really good.

“We have a lot to work on in the meantime, but we’re winning and learning, which is great, rather than off a loss. We’re building in the right direction and there’s a lot of confidence in this group in how we’re preparing and coming out of the back end of results.” 

Ritchei’s performance against the Bulls was precisely what Everitt had hoped for on the player’s return from injury. “To come back after a long lay-off like that and put in a performance like he did is admirable,” the coach said. “Although he didn’t captain the team he led from the front – he was a true warrior on Friday night and that’s what we had to do to be able to beat the Bulls.”

Everitt believes that Ritchie’s impressive return showed he had benefited from his post-World Cup break – not only by necessity physically, but also mentally. “In particular for a leader in a campaign like that, it’s extremely stressful,” Everitt added. “I don’t think the general public, the spectators out there, see the mental side of things. You’re continuously fronting up to the media, and driving performance, and sometimes that’s more exhausting than the game itself.

“So I think the break did him well. I know it tied in with the injury, but he would have got an extended break anyway.”        

About Stuart Bathgate 1363 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

17 Comments

  1. Christie at 6, move Ritchie to 7 and Bradbury ar 8, Henderson and Cummings at locks Schoeman,Ashman and Zander that would be my pack

  2. Anyone for Crosbie, Bradbury and Dempsey for our starting back row? Ritchie, Darge and Fagerson off the bench. Skinner covering 5 positions. Lots of centres now in the mix also.

  3. After the world cup in Japan, we saw a big change in tactics and some changes in personnel. I am sure we’ll see the same this time. No idea what though.

    We have some players who are world class at one thing and ok in other aspects of the game. We need a few more players who are world class all rounders. That’s probably why the second rows don’t carry much – they are selected to win lineouts and hit rucks.

    I wonder if we’ll see changes in defence – I think the choke tackle may have had it’s day. I also wonder if we will see a change to the back row, and giving up on two 7s for an extra ball carrier.

  4. Completely agree with earlier posts. Christie and Bradbury must be in 6N squad. Would also be in favour of Finn as captain. Horne & Vellacott as the two first choice 9s. Both put real pace on the ball. Redpath at 12 looks good to me. Also need to find some more heavyweight ball carriers among the locks. Sykes, Hunter-Hill, Macdonald, Craig? If we get the selection right and begin to mix our game up, changing the point of attack, then we can do some damage. But who knows what GT is thinking

    4
    1
  5. Bradbury has played nearly every game since he joined Bristol as have others like Hislop at Wasps, Rae at Bath and according to reports all 3 have been pulling up trees in a very physical league but never even get a mention by Townsend. IMHO Cummings, Grey good athletes, skillful and good in the line out but neither are the big abrasive carriers and dominant defenders other packs have in the second row. We continuously rely on the Fagerson brothers and Dempsy to carry ball and make the go forward ball our wide game needs but the half decent teams just smash our forwards and we still have no plan B or C. We are very predictable and thereby very easy to do a job on ie South Africa and Ireland in the WC. Interestingly enough both Hislop and Rae are now at Edinburgh so maybe we will see some changes up front and the introduction of some street wise and experienced players.

    4
    2
  6. Ritchie is not Scotland Captain material. He gets involved way too much in the shemozzles, and cant keep his mouth shut with the referees.

    He’s a good player but doesn’t need the distraction of being captain.

    We need someone who is cool, calculating, doesn’t mind the pressure when it comes on top, good with refs, and can revel in getting his team purring. Seniority is no measure of a good captain.

    My tuppence worth on possible candidates would be (not necessarily in order):

    1. Ben Healy – cool, calm, collected under pressure and has won the URC plus won a game against a select Boks side whilst at Munster.
    2. George Horne – a bit of a favourite of mine and leads by example. A proper baller who can call the shots.
    3. Kyle Steyn – Has a strong character and is well liked around the dressing room. But not a hot head.

    It might be an unpopular opinion but its borne out by some of the stuff he’s done in games where the ref’s view swings the margins out of our favour.

    3
    19
    • his captaincy may come under pressure. Partly for the reasons you say but more because his position should be under threat, we have some really good back row options

      But Healey won’t be captain anytime soon if only because the no1 candidate to replace Richie is Russell, who also happens to be a slightly better player than Healey. Horne can be a favourite (one of mine as well) but his game management is not nearly consistent enough, his passing not as good as others, but taking your stance on Richie, because he gets far too involved in stupid pens (and marched back 10m) which are mainly as a result of back chat to refs.

      FWIW Darge to captain and the 7 shirt, the rest can fight it our for a place

    • For on field management and ability to engage positively with refs and has the experience and maturity,I can’t see past Russell.
      Still like the old fashioned ‘leader of the pack’ as a vice captain though

      10
    • Healy being picked ahead of any of our 10s especially Finn would be utter madness. Finn is the outstanding captaincy contender so full expect GT to continue with JR.

  7. SA fans on Reddit rate Dylan Richardson highly and are anticipating him being brought into the boks squad when he becomes eligible for them again. I wonder if Toonie will have another look or if he is really good enough to squeeze into the match day squad.

    1
    1
    • He had a great game at the weekend (no idea how Connacht won that btw) and his versatility makes him a very attractive option.

  8. Andy Christie is the best blindside flanker in Britain right now – two mighty successive MOM performances. It will be interesting to see what Townsend does about it across back row to ensure he takes advantage of it.

    7
    1
    • Additionally it’s mind blowing that Bradbury isn’t in the mix given his form and physicality….. something our back row is desperately short of.

      10
      • Couldn’t agree more when you look at the big brutes who dominated the World Cup. Bardbury has been on fire and some careful thinking is required before the Six Nations. I still don’t think Townsend knows what his optimal back three should be. Two months to go before Bucks Fizz time and much may happen.

      • I don’t agree with much of what you say Rugby Fan but do agree about Bradbury, a brute of a player who i have very rarely seen be second best in a collision. Always surprises me that Townsend does not select him.

        I would be curious to see how a back-row of Bradbury (6) – Crosbie (7) – Dempsey (8) would go. Much neededed physicality against the likes of Boks and the Irish.

        5
        0
      • Always been a fan of Bradbury unfortunately for him Jack Dempsey is in possession of the 8 jersey and is of a similar size and in my opinion the big Ozwegian has a better skill set. Bradbury should however be pushing for a place in the 23 which puts pressure on Matt Fagerson who is all action but physically smaller. Should be horses for courses depending on the size and physicality of the opposition.

  9. Recall, he said “they hadnt had a proper debrief with coach after world cup” mmm I would bet the Bokka had a debreif all right and they won it. Like generals fighting the last war… meanwhile everyone else moves on.. Professionalism and Scottish Rugby have a way togo.

    12
    5

Comments are closed.