Jamie Ritchie on his Lions dream and why he doesn’t hunt muffins any more

Cap landmark for flanker

Jamie Ritchie has outlined his ambition to represent the British & Irish Lions as he prepares to win his 50th Scotland cap in Friday’s match against the USA in Washington DC.

The flanker was unlucky to miss out on selection for the Lions in 2021 and the composite side next tours in 2025 when they will play a three-Test series in Australia.

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Ritchie, 27, has played his way back into the Scotland side after being dropped, recalled then dropped again during this year’s Six Nations. Gregor Townsend, the Scotland coach, said on Wednesday that he felt the Edinburgh back-rower was playing some of the best rugby of his career. Ritchie agrees and is determined to achieve a lot more in the game beyond the 50-cap landmark.

Jamie Ritchie with then Scottish Rugby Union president Rob Flockhart after winning his first Scotland cap against Canada in 2018.  (Picture: SNS Group / SRU Gary Hutchison)Jamie Ritchie with then Scottish Rugby Union president Rob Flockhart after winning his first Scotland cap against Canada in 2018.  (Picture: SNS Group / SRU Gary Hutchison)
Jamie Ritchie with then Scottish Rugby Union president Rob Flockhart after winning his first Scotland cap against Canada in 2018. (Picture: SNS Group / SRU Gary Hutchison)

“There’s obviously things that you’d love to be able to do,” he said. “I’d love to continue to play for Scotland, I’d love to have an opportunity to play for the British & Irish Lions, but the only thing that’s in my control in that is how I prepare and perform, so you have to be at peace with the fact that it might not happen. As long as I know that I’ve done everything I can, then I’ll be happy and I’ll retire happy.”

It’s been a difficult season at times for Ritchie who captained Scotland at last year’s World Cup but was injured in the first half of games against Tonga and Ireland. He then lost the captaincy ahead of the Six Nations when Townsend said he couldn’t guarantee his place in the squad. Ritchie ended up starting in the wins over Wales and England, coming on as a replacement against Italy and sitting out the losses to France and Ireland.

It was a turbulent time for the player but he finished the season strongly with Edinburgh and was one of only two Scottish players who made the URC’s team of the season.

Rugby is funny, it’s quite subjective, so a coach can decide how the trajectory of your career goes,” said Ritchie who is one of two vice-captains for the game against the United States. “It’s also dictated by a little bit of luck, and injury, and things like that.”

Ritchie won his first cap against Canada on the 2018 tour of North America and believes he understands the game better now and is less headstrong.

“I feel a lot older than I did back then,” he smiled. “The biggest change I think [is] probably the leadership. I had it in me back then, but I probably didn’t understand it as much as I do now. Rugby-wise, I think my understanding of the game has come on a lot - I’m probably a lot better in the set-piece part, especially in the lineout, than I was back then.

“[I’ve] probably a slightly cooler head as well. And what other things? Och, I don’t know. I probably try to make some better decisions in and around the defensive breakdown, I think. We used to have a defence coach at Edinburgh called Pete Wilkins, who’s the head coach at Connacht now. And he used to call dipping your head into rucks that you weren’t supposed to ‘muffin-hunting’. And I think I had the highest muffin count at Edinburgh while he was there. I think I’m less partial to muffins now.”

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