JAMIE RITCHIE cracks a knowing smile and shakes his head in mild exasperation when it is put to him that some pundits from south of the border have suggested that Hamish Watson is too small to be an effective tourist for the Lions this summer. 

While nothing is guaranteed, it would be a huge surprise – and a major bone of contention – if this year’s Six Nations player-of-the-championship does not make Warren Gatland’s 36-man squad for South Africa, which will be announced at lunchtime today. However, selection for the Test matches is a different matter. Watson punches well above his weight as a carrier, tackler and scavenger, but there may be a temptation to go with a less dynamic but heavier option on the openside flank in an effort to counter-balance the Springbok juggernaut.  

Watson could be giving away as much as eight inches and four stone to his opponents, but Ritchie still has no truck with the flanker’s detractors. 

“If any of them had ever tried to tackle Hamish they probably would be changing their minds,” he says, in support of his 6ft 1ins Edinburgh and Scotland back-row partner.  “In my mind he is one of the best sevens in the world. These things are so subjective, and it is up to others to make those decisions, but if I was picking it Hamish would be there.” 

Ritchie and 29-year-old Watson have formed a formidable back-row partnership for club and country in recent season, and the younger man jokes that this could help his own outside chance of making the tour.

“Hopefully I can coattail him in there!” he laughs. “Look, who knows what’s going to happen? Not me. If Mish [Watson] goes I’ll be delighted for him, and if I go I’ll be delighted for myself. If I don’t go, I’ll get on with my life and have a nice summer. 

“I am trying not to think about it too much. People keep asking me so that is when it gets brought up.  Whatever happens, happens. I have been in the game long enough to know it is all pretty subjective. I have done all I can. It is up to the people who make those decisions.  

“It is pretty humbling even being mentioned in the conversation. If I was to be selected, then a childhood dream would be realised.” 

“Hamish and I have a really brilliant relationship both on and off the pitch,” Ritchie adds. “We know how each other plays, we know what suits each other and what we do well. We do all our extras together and push each other on. For me, it has been invaluable to have had Hamish there to help my own development.”  

Even if he does get a surprise call-up, Ritchie expects to be back in action tomorrow night when Edinburgh face Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in a Rainbow Cup clash which is doubling-up as this season’s 1872 Cup decider. He has not played since Edinburgh’s European Champions Cup quarter-final defeat to Racing 92 at the start of April and is now chomping at the bit for some action. 

“If you go into a game worried you might get injured then you are more likely to get injured so whatever happens on Thursday I will be up for the game on Friday night,” he says. 

“We had a tough Six Nations campaign that was pretty long and then we were straight into the game against Racing which was tough in itself, so a little time off was welcome, but now I’m just looking forward to getting back out there.  I don’t want to lose too much match fitness.  

“It is an important game because we see the Rainbow Cup as an opportunity for a fresh start off the back of a tough year, it is the deciding game for the 1872 and we always want to get one over on Glasgow regardless of what competition it is in.  

“We know each other so well so it is likely to end up being a close game. For us, it’s about concentrating on what we do well, doing our preparation and getting all our bits right.”