New Scotland skipper Jamie Ritchie admits it “means a lot” to have the backing of predecessor Stuart Hogg as he prepares to begin his captaincy against Australia this weekend.
The 26-year-old Edinburgh flanker was appointed to the leadership role last week after head coach Gregor Townsend chose to relieve the “burden” from Hogg in an effort to help the Exeter full-back rediscover top form on the international stage.
After the change of captaincy was announced, Hogg – who is unavailable for the Australia game as it falls outside the international window – posted a congratulatory message to Ritchie on Instagram declaring that, despite his own “disappointment”, his successor would have his “full support”.
“It means a lot,” Ritchie said when asked about Hogg’s endorsement. “I have a huge amount of respect for Hoggy as a man and a rugby player and it’s been a privilege to support him over the last three years as part of his leadership group.
“He was one of the first guys to congratulate me. Gregor told him I was going to be captain before he told me. When Gregor told me, Hoggy sent me a nice message saying that he backed me and stuff like that, and that meant a lot.”
Ritchie admits he will draw on aspects of Hogg’s captaincy.
“The things I’ll take from Hoggy are his passion – he’s a very passionate Scotsman – and the way he used the group around him,” he said. “There would be days when you wouldn’t necessarily hear him speak a lot because he’d use the leaders around him, and that’s something I’ll look to take on as well.”
Ritchie was informed by Townsend on the first day in camp last week that he had been appointed captain.
Your Scotland Team for Saturday's clash with @wallabies has been confirmed 🏴
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 27, 2022
“We’d had a meeting a couple of weeks prior about some leadership stuff and he let me know I was in the mix, then he dropped the news last week,” said the Edinburgh co-captain.
“It’s quite surreal. It’s hard to put into words how it feels. It’s a huge honour for me and my family, they’re really proud of me. I’m really excited about the opportunity to take it forward.
“For me, as a kid, you don’t dream about being captain. You dream about playing for Scotland, you dream about running out at Murrayfield.
“But since my career has progressed and leadership has become a bigger part of it, it’s been something that’s been in the back of my head in that if I was given the opportunity, I’d love to do it.”
In addition to kicking off his stint as captain, Saturday’s match against Australia also represents Ritchie’s first appearance for Scotland since early February after he spent six months out with a hamstring injury sustained in the Six Nations opener against England.
“It’s been a while, so I’m excited to get back out there at BT Murrayfield,” he said. “It was tough having to watch the boys from the sidelines (in the Six Nations and summer tour) but I knew with the injury I had I couldn’t offer anything so I was excited to see some of the other guys get opportunities.
“I was watching all the games and I was lucky to go with the guys to Rome and enjoyed the win over there.”