Ritchie relishing European clash with familiar faces
Club co-captain Jamie Ritchie will be lining up against a familiar face this Saturday afternoon as Castres Olympique visit the Scottish capital for a vital Heineken Champions Cup clash.
Castres’ Australian forward, Tom Staniforth, and Ritchie were teammates during an exchange year at Strathallan School, during which time the Scotland skipper and towering lock forged a close relationship both on and off the field.
“Both Nick de Crespigny and Tom Staniforth are guys I know well at Castres,” explained Ritchie.
“We did a school exchange and I spent a bit of time with them. They were at Canberra Grammar.
“Tom came to Strathallan on exchange a couple of years before I was playing first XV rugby and then I went on one to Canberra and played with Nick.
“I spent about three or four months in Australia. I loved it, I had a great time.”
Ritchie will be putting friendships to one side when Castres take to the pitch on Saturday afternoon, with the back-row targeting a bounce-back performance following last weekend’s narrow Round 1 defeat to Saracens.
Ritchie put in an impressive shift at StoneX Stadium and following a period of reflection the back-row has described Edinburgh’s mistakes on the day as ‘easy fixes’.
“Overall, we’re pretty happy with how we played against Saracens. It was a comfortable performance. It was a consistent enough performance for 80 minutes,” continued Ritchie.
“There were bits there we would want to improve on, but that’s the same in every game.
“We had a really positive meeting about those bits and we will be looking to build on that going forward.
“Most of it is in our control. Around the lineout there were two call errors – one we didn’t hear and one where we just got it wrong. I’m confident we can take the learnings from that and they are quite easy fixes. It is something to build on.”
Taking on a fully-loaded Top 14 side is exactly what Heineken Champions Cup rugby is all about, and it’s an occasion that Ritchie and his Edinburgh teammates are relishing.
“We’re hugely excited for Saturday. It is something different as well, coming out of the URC and getting into Europe is a bit of a change of dynamic.
“Everyone’s buzzing about being back up at the top table in Europe. It doesn’t take too much to motivate them.
“We looked at Castres early in the week. As you would expect with a French team, they are quite pragmatic in the way they approach the game.
“They kick quite a lot in their own half and are quite direct when they get the ball further down. It will certainly be a physical challenge, but one we are looking forward to.”
Ritchie has stepped up to a captaincy role for both club and country this season, co-skippering Edinburgh alongside Grant Gilchrist while leading Scotland for the very first time in the recent Autumn Nations Series.
It’s been a role that Ritchie has described himself as being ‘prepared for’ with the back-row already looking like a natural leader in both the way he carries himself on the field, and deals with decision-making, relationships and even media off the field.
“I felt prepared for the role. I knew what it entailed in terms of the extra stuff to do before and after games,” explained Ritchie.
“The main thing for me was trying not to change anything in terms of my preparation of the way I like to approach anything. I have done media in the past and I wasn’t going to change that because I was captain.
“For me the most important thing when team captain is making sure I get my preparation right throughout the week so that when you step off the bus for the game you don’t have to worry about what you’ve done.
“It’s a bit different at Edinburgh because it is your day-to-day job. It’s also shared with Gilco but we have a lot of leaders in the group who can take the reins if you’re needing a bit of time away or you just want someone else to take the lead on something.”
Despite the pressures of captaincy, Ritchie is however still finding time to switch off away from rugby, and with two kids, the back-row is never short of responsibilities at home.
“The times I don’t think about rugby is when my kids are running about at home. My wife is great at letting me have some time if I need it.
“I can get away to the village to do some recovery. I do these float things out near the airport. There’s a company there called Float Philosophy that I like to get down to. I use the float pods there and take an hour
“I’m quite good at switching off. I’ve been doing this for a wee while now. I that certain things I like to do that help me to get away from it.
“Getting home is a natural one for that because you don’t have time to think about anything else.”