How Jamie Ritchie views tackling clubmate Bill Mata at Test level
Captain Jamie Ritchie has called on Scotland to impose their game on Fiji as they bid to bounce back from last weekend’s agonising defeat to Australia. The Scots lost 16-15 to the Wallabies in their opening autumn Test but are red-hot favourites to notch a victory on Saturday when the Pacific Islanders visit BT Murrayfield.
“We obviously want to win every game we go into, but we are confident this week that we learned some lessons from the game last weekend and we are going in full of energy,” said Ritchie. “We will be looking to impose our game on them.
“We know what we are expecting in terms of the things they are going to bring to the game, but the most important thing for us is our performance and how we put that out there. We believe that if we put our best foot forward we will come away with the win.
After playing with an entirely home-based team last weekend as the match fell outside the international window, Scotland are buoyed by welcoming key men like Stuart Hogg, Cam Redpath, Chris Harris, Rory Sutherland and Jonny Gray back into the mix. “It’s brilliant to have them back,” said Ritchie. “There is a few more experienced heads in there and they have brought a lot of energy to training this week.
“A few more voices talking, whether that be in the changing room or out on the pitch, so it’s great for us, and it’s great for me just to have that support as well.”
There are some familiar faces in the visiting camp, with Fiji under the charge of former Scotland head coach Vern Cotter, while number eight Bill Mata is a clubmate of Ritchie’s at Edinburgh. “It will be good fun going up against Bill,” said Scotland skipper Ritchie. “He is pretty quiet. We have a laugh and stuff, but he is actually a very intelligent rugby player.
“He will rarely mess up a lineout call or won’t know a play, and I expect he will be a leader within that group, for the Fijian guys. We know what he can do with the ball in hand, with his offloading game. He’s a pretty physical guy, so we will be looking to get on the outside of him rather than run straight down his throat.
“My first game at Murrayfield back in 2018 was against Fiji and Bill was playing that day and we swapped jerseys, so it will be special to run out with him again.”
Ritchie is still in the fledgling stages of his Scotland captaincy after being appointed to the role last month and he admits the pride of leading his country is unlikely to subside. “It’s a real privilege for me to be able to do this job,” he said. “I don’t think that will ever wear off. There is a wee bit more to be aware of and to do, but I’m prepared and I’m aware of it.
“If I had been caught off guard with that, a lot of it could have been a little bit overwhelming, but I’m trying to embrace everything that comes with it and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”
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