Edinburgh coach Mike Blair on how Jamie Ritchie can bounce back like a Springbok
While disappointed to be without one of his most talented players, Blair can see the bigger picture. The Edinburgh coach hopes Ritchie can use the time off to develop physically and thinks he has the potential to become as influential a player for club and country as the great Springbok, Pieter-Steph du Toit.
“Jamie’s a brilliant, brilliant player and he’ll be really disappointed to have missed the last couple of games but we’ve got to look after our young players,” said Blair. “Jamie hasn’t had full, long pre-seasons where he has been able to physically develop.
“I know that might seem like a strange thing to say because he’s a big man and he’s very strong in the contact but I believe he could be like Pieter-Steph du Toit, that kind of size and that kind of stature within the game.
“So although this injury is frustrating and we’d love to have him with us, and I’m sure Scotland would too, it does provide a window where he might have a really good long pre-season which could build him up for the next five years.”
Edinburgh’s focus returns to league business this week as they host Connacht in the United Rugby Championship and Blair is looking forward to a home game after three successive defeats on the road with squads diminished by the absence of their Scotland contingent. It will be the same again on Friday but he is phlegmatic when it comes to balancing the needs of his club and the national side.
“It is a really difficult one psychologically, but we would far rather have our guys selected for Scotland because they are playing really well, than having guys not selected and with us but not playing particularly well,” said Blair.
“Part of our job as a club is to help provide players to the national team and give them opportunities to show what they can do. That also gives us the opportunity to look at other players who may not have been involved.
“This has been a brilliant period for guys like Conor Boyle and Ben Muncaster in the back-row, who have not had much game time previously this season.”
Blair was also heartened to see two more of his players, Mark Bennett and Blair Kinghorn, make significant impressions for Scotland when they came off the bench in the defeat by France.
“We weren’t too sure if Mark would be fit for the France game because he had taken a bit of a bang, but then he was able to train fully all week and I thought he was excellent,” said the coach.
“I was really pleased that Blair got some rugby at the end of the game. We’ve got massive hopes and expectations for Blair. I believe that if he gets a run of games he’s going to start putting real pressure on the national team in and around that 10 position.”