Jamie Ritchie return bolsters Edinburgh - and Bill Mata is not far behind

Jamie Ritchie’s back and the good news for Edinburgh supporters is that Bill Mata is not far behind as the capital club prepare to embark on a new campaign.

Jamie Ritchie will captain Edinburgh against London Scottish on his return from a long injury lay-off. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Jamie Ritchie will captain Edinburgh against London Scottish on his return from a long injury lay-off. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Ritchie has not seen action since ripping his hamstring in Scotland’s Calcutta Cup win over England in early February. It was a particularly nasty injury but the flanker has used the long lay-off to work on his upper body strength and returns to lead Edinburgh in Friday’s pre-season opener against London Scottish at the DAM Health Stadium (6.45pm kick-off).

It was touch and go whether Ritchie would tour South America with Scotland in July but the decision was made that it would be better for all concerned if he stayed at home to work on his fitness.

Stevie Lawrie, the Edinburgh forwards coach, thinks it was the correct call.

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“It’s brilliant to have Jamie back,” said Lawrie. “He’s a fantastic leader and someone who’s worked so hard to recover from a tough injury that he picked up with Scotland. He’s been excellent throughout pre-season.

“It was felt it was in Jamie’s best interests not to go on the summer tour with Scotland. It would have been just a little bit too soon for him. But the start of the season has come at the right time and he’s been able to be fully fit and ticked off all his markers. He’s been training with us pretty much the whole of pre-season.

“He’s somebody who, with the way he plays the game, has been able to improve himself physically without getting knocks. He’s looking in a really good spot and looks strong.”

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Bill Mata, right, suffered a serious knee injury against Benetton last December but is fit again. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

Mata will not be involved against London Scottish but Lawrie expects to see the big Fijian back-row back in action soon following his recovery from the serious knee injury sustained against Benetton last December.

“Bill’s back. He’s fully fit,” said the coach. “He’s been training with the squad fully and he’ll be getting integrated over the next wee while.

“I’m excited to get Bill back out there, as I know all the fans will be, and I’ll just say that he looks in really great shape just now, and he’s hungry and excited to get back playing for Edinburgh.

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“We love Bill and we know that he brings something unique and also with him coming back it means the competition levels rise, which makes our job even tougher to select that back-row.”

None of the Scotland internationals who featured in the series defeat to Argentina will be involved against London Scottish which means opportunities for new signings and some academy and Super6 players.

Nick Auterac, signed from Northampton, is the starting loosehead prop, and there is also a place in the team for winger Jacob Henry, who impressed with the Scotland Sevens squad in the recent Commonwealth Games.

Super6 players Connor Gordon (Stirling Wolves), Kwagga van Niekerk (Watsonians) and Korie Winters (Southern Knights) are named among the 19 replacements alongside Jamie Jack, recruited from Ampthill at the end of last season.

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There are a couple of familiar faces in the opponents’ ranks, with Nathan Chamberlain starting at stand-off for London Scottish and Robbie McCallum selected at inside centre. Chamberlain was released by Edinburgh at the end of the season while McCallum came through the Glasgow Warriors academy.

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