As the cavalry of international players ride in to the relief of Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill ahead of Friday’s big Heineken Champions Cup clash against Newcastle Falcons, none will do so with a more enhanced reputation than flanker Jamie Ritchie.
The 22-year-old was already a Scotland international when he joined Gregor Townsend’s autumn camp six weeks ago, having featured against Canada and Argentina on the summer tour, but he returns to his club with that cap tally trebled and a strong case for being considered one of the national team’s top performers in November.
The back-rower started three out of four of the autumn Tests, coming off the bench in the other against South Africa, and enjoyed a try-scoring home Test debut in the win over Fiji.
“It was kind of a whirlwind experience for me being involved in every game and playing my first game at Murrayfield in front of a sell-out crowd. That was all pretty cool, emotionally tiring and obviously physically tiring, playing every week,” said Ritchie.
“It was amazing but it was nice to get away from all that – get away from rugby for a while and spend a bit of time with my kids who have not seen as much of me in the last five to six weeks as they probably would have liked. It was nice to get away and relax a wee bit – recover and hopefully be ready for the next couple of weeks. Good to go.”
Ritchie is now relishing an exciting two-month period back at Edinburgh before hoping for more Scotland action in the Six Nations.
“It is really exciting with two back-to-back sets of matches – you have Newcastle back-to-back and then look ahead to Glasgow,” he said.
“We have nothing to lose. Europe offers a bit of a fresh start coming off the back of the autumn period when a few guys have been away and we have had some performances we would have liked to go the other way.
“We are in a good place to attack in these four games coming up. It’s exciting, hopefully we can play well out in front of a good crowd. The [Edinburgh] WhatsApp group was still flowing when I was away, we are all best mates, stay in touch.
“You may not have seen them in six weeks but have certainly heard from them. It’s nice to get back with your day-in, day-out mates.”
Ritchie agreed that the forthcoming matches were a big chance for him to push on from the excellent ground laid in November.
“You try to peak all the time, play your best all the time, but this period – off the back of playing well in the autumn – is up there,” he said.
“You want to push for the Six Nations but want to play well for Edinburgh as well because we want us to do well; we want our group in Europe and we want to start jumping up the league as well.
“A good way to do that would be to win two games against Glasgow, which we will be looking to try to do.
“Before that comes Europe and we are looking to win two games against Newcastle as well.
“We were unlucky not to win in Montpellier – we had opportunities to do so and if we had had a different rub of the green we might have won.
“We came away with a losing bonus point, which is almost like a five-point swing if we can win at home.
“We played really well against Toulon [that 40-14 win at BT Murrayfield is seen as one of their best ever wins in Europe] before the autumn and were delighted to get five points against them as well. We have to back that up in January when we go over there.
“We are sitting in a good spot in Europe and are looking to get out of the group.”