JAMIE Ritchie says he is flattered by suggestions that he will start for the British & Irish Lions on next year’s tour to South Africa, but insists that after months without a game he cannot afford to look any further forward than Edinburgh’s forthcoming double-header against Glasgow.

In recent days both Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan and former Scotland lock Jim Hamilton have nominated Ritchie for a place in the tourists’ matchday 15, and both at last year’s Rugby World Cup and during this year’s Six Nations the Edinburgh back-row forward showed the standard of play required to have a good chance of selection. And yet, after such a long lay-off, and with a huge amount of rugby to be played over the coming months, Ritchie is taking nothing at all for granted.

“It’s extremely humbling to be included in those conversations, especially from guys like Ian,” the 23-year-old said. “A lot of people can get caught up looking too far ahead. It’s a bit of a cliche, but you’re only as good as your last game. 

“I’m concentrating on trying to get back into form. If I get picked for these Glasgow games, they’ll be opportunities for me to find a vein of form. 

“It looks like such an incredible experience across the board, not just the games themselves but the whole tour, having all the fans out there and stuff. It would be an awesome thing to be involved in. If the call comes, the call comes, but I certainly won’t be holding my breath.

“It would be a huge honour. It’s something I’ve dreamt about since I was a kid, don’t get me wrong, but I need to put myself in that position and there’s a lot of rugby between now and then. Hopefully I’ll be in with a shout, but as I say there’s a lot of rugby to be played before then. I just need to keep playing well.”

The individual form he was in prior to lockdown made the abrupt cessation of rugby particularly frustrating for Ritchie, who was part of the Scotland squad that travelled to Wales only to have their game called off at the 11th hour. That game is now set to be played in October as part of an extremely busy international autumn schedule, and Ritchie seems confident that, even if a bit of rustiness will be inevitable in Edinburgh’s first matches back, he should be up to speed in time for the Test campaign.

“Especially when we were down in Wales, we were full of confidence,” he continued. “We were looking to go to the Principality and get a win. I think we were all fairly confident that was going to happen.

“So it was frustrating. We thought we were going to be the only sports fixture in the world at one point. But unfortunately, it fell by the wayside, as did everything else.

“In terms of my own form personally, I’m not too worried about it. What will be will be. I’m pretty sure that I’ll hopefully be able to get back into some kind of form off the back of having this time off. It’s just a case of making sure I prepare properly.

“With these two Glasgow games, I’m not expecting to be firing right from the off. It sometimes takes a couple of games to really get into it. There’s lots of rugby to be played, so I’m not too worried at the moment.

‘This period is about trying to build up as much robustness as we can, because when the season starts we’re probably going to be at it for a wee while without a break. Cockers [Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill] will certainly have us ready. They are extremely physical encounters, and there’s always the Scotland thing on the line. It’s an opportunity to get back into rugby. We need to be firing on all cylinders.

“Now we’ve got a date in mind it’s easy to have a focus now. I’m not looking too far past that.”