Jamie Ritchie – Taking on the armband

Jamie Ritchie 20/3/2021
Jamie Ritchie always felt like the obvious choice to captain Scotland this summer.

Jamie Ritchie always felt like the obvious choice to captain Scotland this summer.

He may still only be 24, but the Edinburgh back-rower has a mature head on young shoulders.

Three years on from making his Test bow on a summer tour of the Americas, Ritchie has established himself alongside Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship Hamish Watson, as Scotland’s dynamic duo on the flanks.

And while Watson got the plaudits for his performances across the 2021 Championship, it was Ritchie who produced perhaps the most important moment of the historic victory in Paris.

With France leading and the clock in the red, it was Ritchie who won the crucial turnover penalty that eventually culminated in Duhan van der Merwe’s memorable try in the corner.

It is hard to imagine a more impactful way to cap off a campaign.

His consistency over the past two years, where he has been one of the go-to men in Gregor Townsend’s side, must have got Ritchie right in the conversation to join Watson on the Lions Tour to South Africa.

Instead he will have the honour of leading his country for their clashes with England A, Romania and Georgia.

With 17 uncapped players named in the 37-man squad, Ritchie will have a mentoring role, as much as a captaincy one, but it is a task he should enjoy.

After all, Ritchie has had to grow up fast. As he explained in an interview with the BBC last year, Ritchie has had responsibilities that stretch beyond the rugby pitch for a while now.

He was just 19 when son Oscar was born four weeks premature, with Ritchie caught out by the early arrival as he flew down to London to make his first start for Edinburgh.

Since then, daughter Ava has joined the family, leaving Ritchie with a busy life on the home front, which also gives him perspective when things don’t go right on the pitch.

He said: “Young guys can beat themselves up a bit, but when I was finished training I had a second job at home and I needed to be on the ball for it. I couldn’t sit and worry about rugby.”

That is not to say that he does not care about rugby, it is tough to imagine a more committed player on the pitch.

Considering all the great Scottish back-rowers of the past, it can come as something of a surprise to hear that Ritchie considers Andy Nicol, the former scrum-half and Scotland skipper, as one of his idols, the pair both coming from Dundee.

Prior to establishing himself as a standout rugby player, Ritchie was also a talented judoka, winning silver at the British Judo Championships back in 2009.

In that sense, he follows in the footsteps of Thierry Dusautoir, another judoka turned rugby player.

Dusautoir was not always the most comfortable as captain but would lead by example as he gave everything for the team.

In Ritchie, Scotland may just have found their own leader to follow.