Jamie Ritchie has graduated with honours but is in no mood for a gap year as he looks to drive his career forward, with senior international selection the ultimate goal.
The Edinburgh flanker turns 20 on Tuesday and is preparing for the coming season off the back of 15 appearances last term and his third appearance at a Junior World Cup. He is a prominent member of Scotland’s most promising clutch of young talent and can look to his fellow Strathallan former pupil Zander Fagerson for proof that promotion to the Test scene is not an unreachable target.
“It is the goal, it is every player’s dream,” said Ritchie. “I will take my time and if the opportunity arises will try to grab it with both hands. All I am looking forward to at the moment is playing for Edinburgh and playing well for Edinburgh. If the Scotland call comes, it comes but I am not in a hurry, I hope my time will come.”
Glasgow tighthead prop Fagerson won his first cap in this year’s Calcutta Cup match
“He has done well but it is a different position and in the back-row there is a lot of competition for Scotland. Zander is a freak of nature,” said Ritchie with a chuckle.
“I unfortunately don’t have the physical gifts that he does, but he is an inspiration to guys our age.”
Ritchie was a key figure in a Scotland Under-20 season that brought historic first ever victories over England, in the Six Nations, and Australia, at the World Cup in Manchester.
Ritchie thoroughly enjoyed his last hurrah in the junior age grades.
“It was different from my first two World Cups because it was closer to home and there were a lot more eyes on us.
“I think we saw the damage that injuries can do at that age-grade because there is not as much depth as elsewhere as you don’t have all the ages to call on.
“We lost on average about two players a game and that really killed us come the last couple of games. We had a really strong squad – the strongest I have been involved – in and it was unfortunate to lose so many guys.”
Ritchie is now refreshed and looking forward to pushing on for Edinburgh in the coming season, which starts with trip to Cardiff on the opening Guinness Pro12 weekend, with a pre-season friendly at Sale this Friday evening.
“I think the full internationals from the Japan tour maybe got a wee bit longer off than I did,” he said.
“I got three weeks off after the World Cup and then came back in when the guys who had been in pre-season from the start had a week off. I had a week to ease us back into things.
“Coming off the back of the St Andrews training camp we had last year, I was hoping for maybe a few games, not as many as I got though. I was delighted to be invited as much as I was last year and hope to repeat and push on this year.”
With skipper Mike Coman heading to London Irish, that blindside spot that Ritchie favours is very much up for grabs, though he is taking nothing for granted. He said: “There is a lot of competition for places with guys coming in like Villi [Viliami Fihaki, the Tongan flanker]. He is a big guy, a big ball carrier and a really nice bloke too.
“There are other guys who can fill the role like Maggie [Magnus Bradbury], so the competition is there, it helps us all get better. I would not say I am number one but I think I am in the mix.
“I enjoy blindside and I think that is where Solly [head coach Alan Solomons] sees me long-term. I pride myself on being able to play seven and eight too, but the latter is tricky as my feet are too big to control the ball!
“I enjoy playing in the back-row and as long as I am on the field and playing it doesn’t bother me.”