Ritchie's rise: From schoolboy to Scotland star
When Jamie Ritchie joined the club’s first-team straight from Strathallan School in 2014, there was little question from Edinburgh Rugby and then-Head Coach Alan Solomons that the 6ft 4in schoolboy could one day develop into a Scotland star – it was simply a matter of time.
"The manner in which he handled himself when he met the squad and staff, and his ability to handle the physicality of our sessions during a short trial, confirmed to me that he is ready to make the step-up," said Solomons on the day Ritchie penned his first pro deal.
Ritchie – who was just 17 years old when he signed with the club – had to grow up fast, with senior figures such as Roddy Grant, David Denton and Mike Coman all vying for a place in the capital side’s back-row.
But grow up he did, and it wasn’t long until the former Scotland U20 captain made his professional debut from the bench away to Leinster in 2014 – just two months past his 18th birthday.
During a period in which most teenagers were enjoying their first legal drink in a pub, or settling into university halls, Ritchie was paving his own way and learning the ins and outs of professional rugby.
Fast forward six seasons and plenty has changed for Ritchie – both on and off the field.
Now a father of two, with a family settled in Edinburgh, today’s record contract extension – the longest in Edinburgh Rugby history – marks the end of one journey and the start of another.
Ritchie – long tipped to be a future Scotland captain, or even a British & Irish Lion – has the chance to kick on for both club and country with the full backing of his hometown team.
“I am really chuffed to be staying at Edinburgh - it means a lot to me and my family to know we’ll be here for the foreseeable future,” said Ritchie.
“I have been at this club since I was 17 and these guys have been like my family since I left school.
“My family and I love living in Edinburgh. Our eldest is now at school here and we have made some amazing friends in the city. We are all very happy that we know we are here to stay for the next while!”
When Richard Cockerill took charge of the club in 2017-18, Ritchie – then 21 - was already entering his fourth season as a professional player.
With significant experience under his belt and plenty of Guinness PRO14 game time, Ritchie was selected for Scotland’s 2018 Summer Tour, where he made his international debut in a 48-10 win over Canada.
A year later, Ritchie was on the plane to Japan for his first Rugby World Cup - a campaign where he truly earned the plaudits from international media after a series of impressive performances.
And, despite a group stage exit for Gregor Townsend’s side, Ritchie had shown that he could make the step up and perform on the world stage.
For most, Japan was Ritchie’s coming out party, yet the former Strathallan pupil insists his game still has plenty of room to develop.
“I want to continue to help improve this club,” continued Ritchie.
“I think we have made strides in the last few seasons but I think there is still lots we can do to get better as a club both on and off the field.
“I feel with the leadership group we have here at the club we can build something special given the opportunity and I believe we can win some silverware.
“I also want to continue improving as a player. With the group we have here - especially in the back row - we push each other to be better all the time.
“There is a lot of young guys coming through at the club now and, having been in their position, I feel I can help them as guys like Roddy Grant and Mike Coman did for me when I arrived.”
With 73 appearances under his belt with Edinburgh, and a further 23 caps to his name with Scotland, Ritchie has come a long way from the 17-year-old thrown into pre-season training back in 2014.
The back-row star has done it his way, and made some amazing memories with his teammates along the way – memories that played a significant role in persuading him to commit his future to the club.
“Edinburgh is a great club in a great city with an amazing bunch of boys who work extremely hard.
“I can’t believe it’s been seven years since I moved here – it feels like yesterday.
“Looking back helps me see how much we have improved on the field; we’ve become a much more consistent team.
“There have been some very special games as well. A couple that spring to mind are the game against Glasgow in 2017 when we won with 14 men and the games against Toulon home and away in the Champions Cup in the 2018-19 season.
“I am proud of what I have achieved so far in my time at the club and I feel there is so much more to come.
“There has been lots of change in the time I have been here. Change is a good thing and we need to continue to evolve, I am excited about the next chapter when we get into our new stadium; I think once the crowds return it will be an amazing place to play.
“We have brilliant fans who I can’t wait to have back watching us when it’s safe to do so. This is a big part of the reason why I feel Edinburgh is the place for me to continue my career the moment.”