Scotland back row star Jamie Ritchie is staying with Edinburgh Rugby having signed “the longest extension in the club’s history”.
The 23-year-old from St Andrews has become a mainstay in the national team since he was first capped in 2018 against Canada.
He was voted Scotland’s best player in the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019 and developed into a consistent performer for Gregor Townsend in the last two years.
The terms of the deal haven’t been revealed by the club other than it’s the longest extension ever signed by them.
Scotland star Jamie Ritchie extends capital stay with longest extension in Edinburgh Rugby history.
🗞️ 𝘊𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘬 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺.
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) January 14, 2021
The likeliehood is that it’s a five-year deal taking Ritchie to near age 30. Most rugby contracts even for top ranked players are a maximum three years in the modern era.
Ritchie and Watson re-signings are key for Edinburgh
This re-signing comes just a week after Ritchie’s back row partner for Edinburgh and Scotland, Hamish Watson, also penned a long-term extension.
Richard Cockerill believes that Ritchie is a future Scotland captain during the term of this new contract.
“There’s no two ways about it, this really is fantastic news for the club,” he said. “Jamie and Hamish are two of best back-row forwards in the game right now.
“The back-row and their role at the breakdown is so vital in today’s game. Dominance, and at the very least parity, is so often a decisive factor in the outcome. Jamie’s height and athleticism mean he’s also an excellent lineout option.”
“Jamie is an excellent young player with an old head on his shoulders. He has a really bright future ahead of him and we’re delighted he’s signed such a long-term deal.
“His work-rate is immense but it’s the quality of work within that which sets him apart.
“He’s a fantastic leader on the park and certainly has the capacity to captain his country in the future.”
‘It means a lot to me and my family’
Like Watson, a settled future for his young family in the capital was a big factor in Ritchie’s decision to sign on for the long-term.
“I’m really chuffed to be staying at Edinburgh,” he said. “It means a lot to me and my family to know we’ll be here for the foreseeable future.
“I have been at this club since I was 17 and these guys have been like my family.”
But Ritchie also believes that the foundation is there for success at Edinburgh.
“We have a strong group here and I think we can continue to improve,” he added.
“Edinburgh is a great club in a great city with an amazing bunch of boys who work extremely hard. I’m proud of what I have achieved so far and I feel there is so much more to come.
‘I want to continue to improve this club’
“I want to continue to help improve this club. We have made strides in the last few seasons and there’s still lots we can do to get better, on and off the field.
“With the leadership group we have here at the club I believe we can build something special and win something.
“Scottish Rugby have been hugely supportive of this long-term extension. I’d like to thank them for backing me and proving a solid platform from which I’ve been able to grow and develop.”
From Madras to Howe to Strathallan to Edinburgh
Ritchie joined Edinburgh straight from Strathallan School at just 17 and made his debut for the club in 2014. He had begun playing in mini rugby at Madras RFC in St Andrews and made his senior rugby debut for Howe of Fife at just 16.
He was capped at every age-group level, captaining the Under-18s and the Under-20s, the latter at the 2014 World Championship.
Ritchie started to secure his place in the Scotland side during the Autumn Tests of 2018. He replaced the injured then-captain John Barclay throughout that season and through the Six Nations Championship.
Barclay returned at the World Cup, but Ritchie was recalled for the matches against Samoa and Japan. He was awarded the samurai sword from the Brave Blossoms’ captain Michael Leitch for being the outstanding player on the opposing team in the epic final group game in Yokohama.
Since then Ritchie has been a fixture, winning man of the match awards in the Six Nations wins over France and Wales. He also joined the national squad’s leadership group after the World Cup.
For Edinburgh, Ritchie has made 73 appearances in his seven years scoring three tries.