Quiet family guy Ritchie keen to up the volume on the field in a bid to make the World Cup

Jamie Ritchie answers questions from youngsters in St Andrews
©Chris Reekie

Jamie Ritchie does not turn 23 until later this month, but the exciting back-row player has packed a lot into his life so far and one of the pinnacles of his rugby career could be just around the corner.

The former Madrascals, Howe of Fife and Strathallan School player joined Edinburgh Rugby straight from the latter in the summer of 2014 and since then has gone on to be a star player for the national under-20s side, the pro outfit and Scotland.

Since he joined the pro ranks he has been seen as one of Scotland’s most promising talents and he has handled that pressure well.

Indeed, when you realise that he and partner Millie have also been bringing up a son and daughter - three-and-a-half-year-old Oscar and 18-month-old Ava - while his career has been on an upward curve, then you have even more admiration for this measured character.

“Family life 100 percent makes things like this summer camp with the national team better,” Ritchie told TRU from Scotland’s training base on the outskirts of Edinburgh this week.

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“You can go home after a tough day and be exhausted, but the kids always have smiles on their face and that is great to see.

“I have been quite lucky in that becoming a dad has run almost alongside my rugby career, Oscar was born the same day as I made my first Edinburgh start against London Irish [in December 2015] for example and Ava has been around while I have been making my Scotland breakthrough.

“They keep me grounded and busy and while balancing rugby and family life can be tough, Millie has been brilliant and she puts in a lot of hard work with the kids to allow me to live out my rugby dream.

“Taking the kids out on the pitch after big games like Scotland internationals is an amazing feeling - it is great that I get to share it with them all.”

‘Home of Golf’ taken over by rugby

When Ritchie himself was a youngster he grew up near the ‘Home of Golf’ in St Andrews, but rugby was always going to be his game.

Some of his family still live in the East Neuk of Fife and while he was there last week with the Scotland squad who are preparing for the World Cup in Japan, he and other local players such as George and Pete Horne took time out, along with Stuart Hogg, to meet the attendees at the St Andrews Rugby Camp.

“When I was up in St Andrews last week it felt like I had gone full circle,” the man with 10 full caps under his belt said.

“It was nice to be back home again because I grew up around there and my dad and my wee sister are still there. I popped in to see them and it is nice to wander around the town because a couple of my friends have restaurants in St Andrews.

“I was born in Dundee then grew up in a place called Strathkinness which is a couple of minutes from St Andrews then I went to Madras [College in St Andrews] for the first year of high school before the opportunity came to move to Strathallan School [near Perth] on a rugby scholarship.

“The Madrascals junior section are based at Station Park in St Andrews and I played my rugby with them until I left to go to Strath.

“That move was a huge one for me and my family, but one that we don’t regret and one that I think has been pivotal in me getting to where I am now as a rugby player.

“Caledonia is such a huge area of Scotland and there are a lot of boys in the current and recent Scotland squads who are from that area.

“It is a hub and there are a lot of guys who do well so it was great to be there helping out the current young players.”

The St Andrews Rugby Camp was run by former Scotland hooker Scott Lawson and he said: “We were fortunate that our St Andrews rugby camp coincide with the national team's World Cup training camp at the university.

“I had a lot of attendees form Madras and Howe of Fife and I thought it would be great to get Jamie along with Pete and George Horne to meet them. Meeting international players at any time is inspirational, but to meet those that have came from your own club can be even more so.

My own children are members of the Madrascals youth section and I'm very keen to see rugby continue to grow at all levels within St Andrews.

“To have a former Madrascal as a current international is truly inspirational and knowing Jamie, I'm sure he'll continue to make time and meet local players whenever he can.

“I think Gregor Townsend and his team get the balance of creating a world class training environment and engaging with the public spot on, not many other nations or sports are so accommodating.”

Howe’s about that then

Part of growing up for any rugby player is playing your first few games in the senior ranks.

Being exciting talents, Strathallan pupils George Horne and Cammy Fenton [now with Edinburgh Rugby] all played together for Howe of Fife’s senior teams in Cupar when they were 16 and 17.

“I played senior rugby at Howe of Fife when I was still at school, as school rugby finished around Christmas, I was able to play some games for the Howe in the early months of the year,” Ritchie, who has now played over 60 matches for Edinburgh, explained.

“It is interesting playing with older players and it definitely got me used to playing in more physical games from a young age, guys would pick fights with you and then find out you were still a teenager!

“Seriously though it was good for my rugby and it helped me make the step from age-grade to senior rugby, it was a big part of my learning curve.

“I was fortunate to sign for Edinburgh straight from school, but then I had to get used to get a professional game and get used to that environment, every player has to take their own, different path to get to where they want to be.

“Sometimes you need luck, but if you put the hard work in you will get there.

“In the first year at Edinburgh we weren’t getting great results and there were a lot of injuries so I was kind of saying to the coaches ‘chuck me in’, but I learnt about being patient and just getting the head down.”

Roddy’s words of wisdom

Ritchie made his Edinburgh debut in October 2014 just a few months after his 18th birthday, but had to wait until December 2015 to make his first start.

During the intervening 14 months he did a lot of growing up, Oscar was born and he remembers one man helping him a lot.

“Roddy Grant was a huge help to me, he was still playing when I was coming through at Edinburgh and he was always passing on advice and tips,” Ritchie said of the former Edinburgh skipper.

“The main thing I learnt from Roddy was being loud out there on the pitch.

“When you were out there playing, he would literally talk to you constantly in attack and defence and make sure everyone knew their roles and I realised that for me to become a better player it is something I had to bring into my game.

“I took that on board and am given it my all to make the World Cup at the moment.”

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