EDINBURGH RUGBY’S back-row Jamie Ritchie turns 19 later this month – and he wants to celebrate in style by becoming a regular member of Alan Solomons’ first-team squad in 2015/16.
Ritchie joined the Capital outfit on a full-time contract straight out of Strathallan School last summer.
Head coach Solomons worked closely with the teenager last term to make sure that he continued to progress and got used to the rigours of senior rugby – and now it seems Edinburgh supporters could be seeing a lot more off him over the coming months.
Having played in the pre-season fixtures in 2014/15, Ritchie made his competitive debut off the bench against Leinster in the Guinness PRO12.
With the likes of Hamish Watson and David Denton away with Scotland at the moment, Ritchie and fellow Scotland under-20 cap Magnus Bradbury are likely to be involved in the pre-season friendlies against Romania and Ulster later this month.
And their next aim will be to be in the matchday squad for the PRO12 opener against Leinster on September 4 at BT Murrayfield.
“I think my first year in the professional game did a lot for me confidence wise,” said Ritchie, pictured. “I feel a lot more comfortable in the environment now.
“Those pre-season games [last year] were massive for me, and did me a lot of good. To then play against Leinster away at the RDS and get that kind of exposure was really good.
“When some of the other players are away at the upcoming World Cup, that represents a huge opportunity for us young guys to put our hand up, and hopefully play well to cement our place in the team.
“Alan likes me playing at number six and I like playing there, but just so long as I’m playing rugby I’m perfectly happy. He knows that I can play seven having seen me play there for the under-20s, so that’s good for me because if somebody gets injured then I can slot in.
“Alan is quite an approachable coach. You can talk to him and have a bit of banter, but when it comes down to training and you’re doing something wrong then he’ll talk to you about it and he’ll help you with it.
“The fact he has confidence in us, and backs us as players, is great.”
Ritchie, who turned out for Heriot’s in the BT Premiership last year, has tried to learn as much as he can from the experienced back-rows at Edinburgh including captain Mike Coman.
He said: “At training I sit next to Mike in the changing room so I get the odd comment here and there – a little bit of advice and so on.
“He’ll keep an eye on me and help me out in certain situations, as all the back-row do.
“David Denton helps me quite a lot with the lineout stuff and Roddy Grant helps with the contact and defence side of the game.”
Ritchie, who was captain of the Scotland under-20s last season, spent last week with the rest of the squad in St Andrews in a pre-season camp and he admits it was a bit strange being back in the town where he grew up.
“I’m from St Andrews so it was a bit surreal. I was in town walking about on one of the days and saw a few of my mates, which was a bit weird,” he added.
And if Ritchie’s rugby rise continues as planned then he may have to get used to being recognised a lot more regularly when he walks down the streets in the Capital too.