Edinburgh Rugby head coach Alan Solomons is delighted that teenager Jamie Ritchie has committed his long-term future to the club – and he believes more young talent will be heading towards the first team soon.
As Edinburgh prepare to take on London Irish this afternoon in the European Rugby Challenge Cup in Reading, back-row Ritchie has signed on at BT Murrayfield until 2019.
And one of the most pleasing aspects of the season to date has been young players breaking through in the Edinburgh jersey.
Alex Toolis, 23, has had more game time this term in the second-row than ever before while Ritchie, 19, gets a start today.
Chris Dean and Damien Hoyland, both 21, have featured regularly in the backs while 18-year-old Blair Kinghorn has really impressed in his first year out of school.
Magnus Bradbury, 20, has returned from Scotland Sevens duty in Dubai and will be on the bench today and although a lot of frontline players are being rested this weekend Solomons believes the future is bright.
“I am very impressed by the young talent that is in the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy at the minute,” the head coach said.
“We have a number of them training with us regularly, the likes of Murray McCallum, Lewis Carmichael and Ross Graham. They have seen what the likes of Jamie Ritchie and Blair Kinghorn have done and the others want a piece of it too.
“I meet every fortnight with Graeme Beveridge from the Academy based in Edinburgh and Chris Dewsnap [Borders and East Lothian Academy] to keep tabs on all of the young players who could feed into us eventually.
“And every Tuesday the Academy players are in with us to go through training with the full-time squad, so we are on top of this and we are keeping an eye on all of these guys.
“I want Edinburgh to have a very strong core of young, Scottish players going forward.”
Hearing that prop McCallum, 19, has impressed Solomons will be no surprise to Heriot’s supporters who have watched him this term.
For now though Edinburgh’s immediate focus is on the encounter with London Irish a they look to build on wins over Grenoble and Agen to date in Pool Five.
With a number of experienced players missing only four of the starting XV that lost on league duty to Ulster eight days ago remain in the team. They are Anton Bresler, Alex Toolis, Cornell Du Preez and Dougie Fife.
Michael Allen, after two outings off the bench, gets a first start for the club at centre with Ritchie also starting for the first time this season wearing No.6.
Solomons said: “London Irish have had a difficult season in the Premiership and will be looking at this game to build confidence.
“Accordingly I believe that they will put out a full strength team and as such we will be subjected to a real test of the strength in depth in our squad.”
The London Irish team features Scotland cap Sean Maitland at full-back with Blair Cowan on the bench. Neil Cochrane captains Edinburgh from hooker today in a match that kicks-off at 3pm.
Solomons was one of the main reasons Ritchie was happy to commit his own future to the Edinburgh cause.
The Scotland Under-20 man said: “When I first joined a year and a half ago Alan made it clear that he was really keen on signing young guys and building the club through them – he’s sticking by his guns.
“I get on really well with Alan and the good thing is that you always know where you stand with him, so him signing for another year is really good.
“I’m just glad to know where I am going to be for the next three years. Now I can just get my head down and not have to worry about the future.”
Edinburgh Rugby: Dougie Fife; Tom Brown, Michael Allen, Andries Strauss, Otulea Katoa; Greig Tonks, Nathan Fowles; Rory Sutherland, Neil Cochrane, John Andress, Anton Bresler, Alex Toolis, Jamie Ritchie, Cornell Du Preez, Hamish Watson. Subs: George Turner, Grant Shiells, Simon Berghan, Magnus Bradbury, Chris Dean, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Blair Kinghorn, Damien Hoyland.