Edinburgh Rugby’s young talent Jamie Ritchie has thanked his more experienced back-row colleagues for their advice in recent months as he prepares to make his first ever European appearance against Agen on Friday.
Ritchie, 19, is now in his second season with the Capital club and although he has a big future ahead of him, he has struggled to force his way into the first-team picture.
He played in the Guinness PRO12 match away to Leinster last term, but has yet to make an appearance in 2015/16 and instead has been involved with the national sevens set-up and BT Premiership Heriot’s.
However, he is set to play in the Pool Five European Rugby Challenge Cup match away to Agen on Friday in the Stade Armandie.
And although Ritchie has not seem much first-team action in the last year-and-a-half, the former Strathallan School pupil has been learning from the best in training.
He has had the likes of David Denton – who moved on to Bath Rugby last week – captain Mike Coman, Cornell du Preez, Hamish Watson, Roddy Grant, Nasi Manu and new recruit John Hardie to bounce ideas off.
“The competition for places in the back-row is huge, massive, but these are guys that you can learn off all of the time,” Ritchie said.
“I am feeding off their experience. Guys like Nasi have played in the Super Rugby competition in the southern hemisphere and it is a different type of game there so it is about trying to pick up things that perhaps he does differently.
“A lot of the guys here are good lineout forwards and that is something I want to work on. I learnt a lot in that respect from David Denton.
“Mike Coman’s leadership skills are superb and having been captain of the under-20s last year, I have looked to him for ways to be a better leader and just really how to lead a team well.
“When I heard that John Hardie was coming here I was looking forward to it because he had an amazing Rugby World Cup. I want to bounce some ideas off him because obviously he is a different type of player than some of the other back-rows at the club.
“He is a real workhorse, he seems like a real good bloke and I am looking forward to learning a different side of the game from him.
“If I have to ask questions I will ask questions and they are all really approachable guys – it is easy to learn from them all.”
Ritchie, who now has 13 caps at under-20 level and is still eligible for them this season, believes that recent sevens work will actually help him in the 15-a-side arena.
He explained: “Sevens exposes you a lot more defensively and at the breakdown while it is also really good for up-skilling yourself, so your handling skills really improve as does your overall fitness.
“For some positions it could be difficult to jump between sevens and 15s, but I don’t find it too bad being a back-row. As a back-row you are trying to be everywhere all the time on the pitch no matter what game you are playing.
“I have not had as much rugby as I would have liked this season, so I am looking forward to getting out there and pulling on an Edinburgh jersey.”
As one of the first Scottish sports team to fulfil a fixture in France since last Friday’s tragedy in Paris, Ritchie and his team mates are well aware that there will be a very emotional atmosphere surrounding the Agen match
“We will pay our respects because it was a devastating thing that happened, but for us it is about concentrating on our rugby,” he stated.
“The boys will be focused on the game and that will be the main thing going into the fixture.”