STILL only 25, Jamie Ritchie has been a senior leadership figure with both Edinburgh and Scotland for some time now - arguably since as far back as the 2019 World Cup, when Japan awarded him a ceremonial sword as their most respected opponent.

As the back-row forward prepares to make his comeback from the serious hamstring injury which has kept him out of action since February, the obvious question is whether those evident leadership abilities will see him being invited to captain Scotland in the Autumn Internationals.

Stuart Hogg, of course, has captained the national team since shortly after that World Cup, but did not go on the summer tour to South America. Grant Gilchrist was captain when the squad set off, but Hamish Watson ended up with the honour in the third Test against Argentina.

In the aftermath of that game - a 34-31 defeat that also saw Scotland lose the series against the Pumas 2-1 - Gregor Townsend said he had not decided who should skipper the side in November, when New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Fiji all visit BT Murrayfield. Gilchrist was very much the stability candidate once it was agreed that Hogg should have the summer off, but the national coach may well seek fresh dynamism rather than a tried and trusted formula when it comes time to prepare for those four games.   

Ritchie said yesterday that it would be an amazing honour to be asked to captain the team this season, but at the same time he insisted that he has already fulfilled his boyhood dream - simply by turning out for the national side. “If I get asked, it would be amazing,” he said. “It’s not something I’m going to hang my hat on and be like: ‘Yeah, I definitely want to do it or else I’m not playing’.

“When I was a kid, I didn’t dream about being captain of Scotland. I just dreamed of playing for Scotland and that, for me, was always the goal.

“If you get offered that honour of being captain, then great. I think we have loads of good leaders. You could probably pick from five or six boys who have done a good job.

“I thought Mish (Watson) coming in and doing it in Argentina was awesome. I was really chuffed for him.

“It’s always been something that I've enjoyed around the game, the leadership aspect. Captaining teams at school and age grade was always something that I felt I was OK at.

“I guess it is something that you have naturally, but it’s also something that needs to be worked on. It’s something that I enjoy, whether as a captain or not as a captain. If something needs to be said, that’s leadership.”

The captain is often the player who bears the brunt of any criticism when things go wrong, but Ritchie insisted that would hold no fears for him. 

“Would it put me off it? No, I don’t think it would. I don’t see my own value based around what people would say on social media. 

“My self-worth comes from me, the people I care about, my family and my team-mates. So long as they’re not the ones who are saying whatever expletives people would use on line, I’m not really too worried.”

Ritchie’s injury, sustained in the Calcutta Cup match, meant he missed out on much of Mike Blair’s first season as Edinburgh coach, in which the capital club embraced a new, attacking style. He was particularly annoyed to miss out on the business end of the campaign after having restricted opportunities to turn out for the team during the two previous, Covid-affected seasons, but he was close enough to proceedings to appreciate how much morale has improved under the new boss.

“It was a bit frustrating, because we had a decent amount of success towards the end of the year as well - we had those big games that I missed out on,” he added. “I was on track to play more games for Edinburgh last season than I had for the previous two seasons, because there hadn’t been that many. 

“Then I got injured, so it was a bit frustrating. The two seasons prior to last I played maybe eight or nine games for Edinburgh - I would have loved to play a bit more.

“So that was frustrating, but it was also great to watch the boys experience that and hear it from outside the bubble.”

Jamie Ritchie was speaking at the launch of Edinburgh’s new sponsorship agreement with Uhuru Rum, who have become the club’s kit sponsors and official rum partners. The capital-based independent bottlers have signed a two-year sponsorship deal and will have their logo featured on the club’s home and alternate Macron match kit, which is set to be revealed later this summer.

As part of the sponsorship, Uhuru Rum will also develop a new rum cocktail bar based in the DAM Health Stadium fan zone on match days.