Edinburgh back-rower Jamie Ritchie says that pre-World Cup tension is yet to fully kick in but appreciates that after this week things will ratchet up as an actual Test match looms.
Scotland travel to Nice to face France in the first of their four warm-up games on August 17 and Ritchie, who turns 23 on the eve of the match, is desperate to get back into a match-playing environment and stake a claim for a place on the plane to Japan in September.
“There’s not much tension yet. We have this whole week then into Test-match week. I’m sure it will start to pick up this week. We are doing more contact and training is getting a bit more physical which is always good fun. It’s coming in quickly.”
Back row will be arguably the most competitive area when the final selection comes around, with nine specialists plus Exeter Chiefs’ Sam Skinner, who can drop back from lock, in the 44-man extended training group. That is likely to be cut to around half a dozen when head coach Gregor Townsend and his coaching team decide on their 31 for Japan. Ritchie may be one of the young bucks in the group but has raced to ten caps since making his Test debut in Canada last June.
“Most of the stuff we have done in camp has been pretty fun,” he continued. “All the fitness we have done is ball in hand and it is interesting and pretty fresh. It is not just running up and down which is nice. Personally I’m champing at the bit to get a game as it’s a while since I played and I’m looking forward to getting into the games.”
The long build-up with the national squad has provided a different challenge to a traditional club pre-season.
“It’s been a Scotland group for such a long period of time. That is the big thing for me,” he said. “You go on tour and you are together for the autumn period or six nations period but it is always straight into Test matches. Before the summer tour you maybe have a couple of weeks and you are into it.
“It has been enjoyable, it has been good, it has been new faces, new training regime.
“There are little mini teams in training, because we play games and stuff. You play against different people every day so that does not change too much.
“For me, the only thing I can do is concentrate on myself, I am not looking at anyone else, I am not worrying about what they are doing in training.”, just making sure I am doing anything I get the chance to do to the best of my ability.
“I am working as hard as I can, but there are obviously guys who are going to be disappointed. You are starting to feel the heat a little bit now but what will be, will be.”
After Nice, the Scots face France at home then Georgia away and home.