Sean Everitt insists concerns over whether Jamie Ritchie will continue as Scotland captain didn’t come into his thinking as he named him among the replacements for Friday night’s Challenge Cup clash against Scarlets. 

The Edinburgh flanker captained Scotland at the World Cup but Gregor Townsend admitted earlier this week he faces a challenge to hold onto that role and needed to prove his form and fitness going into the opening game against Wales. Friday night’s game with Scarlets is his final chance to do that with Edinburgh ahead of the tournament but Everitt insists he picked his team based on what he felt was best for them. 

Ritchie was previously captain of Edinburgh but Everitt replaced him when he came in as head coach with Grant Gilchrist and Ben Vellacott currently holding the role as co-captains. The fact he’s been named on the bench for the trip to Scarlets has stirred up more conversation on who will captain Scotland. 

Everitt, for his part, hasn’t spoken to Townsend about the captaincy and won’t have a conversation with Ritchie about it either as he looks to keep out of international debates but he insists he has no worries about his man and his ability to play at 6 or 7 also played a part in the decision to keep him in reserve. 

He said: “No it definitely did not. We selected our team internally on Monday.

“Jamie has been in good form. We played him at both six and seven. And I think he has played some of his best rugby for the club this season. I think you can agree that the performances have been good for us.

“For me, it was about how do I manage players coming back in a short space of time. This week is a short turnaround when they had Monday and Tuesday to prepare. And I also feel we need to see how the game goes. And as we know Jamie is a versatile player and he can play six and seven for us. So that's the reasoning behind it.

READ MORE: Edinburgh's precarious position their own fault, says Young

“I didn't want to make wholesale changes in my loose trio. So one of the guys that has come off the bench, this week it's Jamie, Luke has been off the bench before.

“When if you go back and look at the Bismarck, John Smit saga in South Africa. Bismarck was arguably the best hooker and John Smit was by far the best leader within the group and something has to give but I don't think that's the case here. I haven't chatted to Gregor about the captaincy of the national team. But there's no doubt that if Jamie's going to be in the team he would be considered as a leader.

“I think there is pressure on rugby players all the time, there is pressure on coaches too. Coaches have to make the right decisions. We are in a professional game. Jamie has been around long enough to know that he just needs to focus on the job at hand.

“He's been in massive pressure situations before. And I think for him, he's got to concentrate on making the match day 23.”

Hamish Watson and Dave Cherry are two players who will start for Edinburgh in a game where they know a victory will secure their place in the next round of the Challenge Cup. The pair aren’t included in Townsend’s Six Nations squad and the former in particular is a bit of a surprise and Everitt admits they are disappointed, but he’s urged them to keep sticking to what they are doing and they will get another chance. 

He continued: “They are obviously very disappointed, anyone would want to play for their country in the Six Nations. I think for them it's about sticking to task. Hamish has been good for Edinburgh this season but then you got to be fair to the other candidates that have put their hands up. I know Rory Darge is injured at the moment but he has had an outstanding season both at the World Cup and for Glasgow.

“I think for them the message would be to stick to task. There’s a number of games that need to be played in the Six Nations and as we saw in the World Cup with the injuries that took place there are so many other people get an opportunity to play and that's why tomorrow night's just such an important event for the individuals within that squad because they're all competing for a place in the match 23. The squad is in an enlarged squad of 39 but there's no guarantee who's going to start the game and Jamie's got an opportunity to put his hand up as like Luke and Hamish Watson.

“Dave Cherry, we've rotated him well, he's got a fair amount of game time for us and always done well in that position so he just needs to crack on. I mean, we can't deny the fact that Johnny Matthews has been a try scoring machine for Glasgow as well. So there'll be reasons beyond that, but it's just for our guys to stick to task and use the opportunities they get within the franchise from week to week to put the end up for selection.”

Edinburgh team to face Scarlets: Bofelli, Dean, Currie, Lang, Van der Merwe, Healy, Vellacott, Schoeman, Cherry, Nel, Skinner, Gilchrist, Crosbie, Watson, Mata

Replacements: Ashman, Venter, Williams, Young, Ritchie, Dodd, Price, Scott