For the youngest member of this year’s Scotland under-20 IRB Junior World Championship squad the tour to New Zealand – they set off on Saturday (24 May) – will be an education in more ways than one.
In addition to his commitments on the pitch, 17-year-old Jamie Ritchie will be one of three squad members sitting exams while competing for his country on the other side of the world.
After captaining Scotland at under-18 level this season, Jamie – who played for Madras in his first year before moving to Strathallan School – and subsequently also representing Howe of Fife – was drafted into the older age grade squad in April. He impressed in both warm-up games earlier this month, scoring a try against the Irish at Murrayfield.
May also being exam month, however, has meant the Strathallan School pupil has had to juggle three week-long training camps with studying for three Highers, two of which he’s already sat. Jamie said:
“The school have been very good at working round my rugby commitments. They and Scottish Rugby have been in touch with the Scottish Qualifications Authority so I’m able to take the last of my three Highers out in New Zealand.
“It’s the PE exam and Cammy [Fenton] will be doing it too.”
While back-row Jamie and prop Cammy will be embroiled in Higher PE, scrum half Ben Vellacott – who attends Hartpury College – will be sitting his end of year Foundation Sports Coaching exam in another quiet room in Auckland.
Scottish Rugby’s Education Manager, Paul Kesterton stressed the importance of ensuring these educational commitments are honoured and said: “We certainly appreciate the support given to us by exam boards, colleges and universities. As a recognised SQA centre, we value the importance of examinations and the need to maintain the integrity of them when we are looking after ‘player candidates’.
“This is exactly the same when players are abroad as well. The flexibility allows players to relax and focus on training and playing, knowing there is minimum disruption to their sitting of examinations. It has worked well in recent years and hopefully brings success in the classroom and on the pitch too!”
Though it sounds a tough schedule for Jamie, he reckons it pales into insignificance when compared with the squad’s recent training experience with The Royal Highland Fusiliers, the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS).
Jamie said: “It was tough on the assault course, one of the hardest 24hrs I’ve ever been through, but a good way to get to know the guys.
“It was a great experience and allowed people to show their leadership qualities.”
All in all the last month – and the impending next four weeks of taking on South Africa, Higher PE, Samoa and New Zealand – were an opportunity not to be missed for Jamie.
“I couldn’t turn it down – what more could you ask for, as a 17-year-old.”
Scotland under-20 squad for IRB Junior World Championship
Magnus Bradbury (Boroughmuir/Edinburgh Rugby) **
Lewis Carmichael (Melrose) *
Ben Chalmers (Melrose)
Gabriel Carroll (Loughborough University)
Jack Cosgrove (Worcester Warriors)
Andrew Cramond (Aberdeen Grammar)
Philip Cringle (Edinburgh Accies/Edinburgh Rugby) **
Chris Dean (Edinburgh Accies/Scotland 7s)
Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Hawks)
Jamie Farndale (Edinburgh Accies/Edinburgh Rugby) **
Cameron Fenton (Strathallan School/Howe of Fife) *
Alex Glashan (Edinburgh Accies/Scotland 7s)
Neil Herron (Glasgow Hawks/Scotland 7s)
Damien Hoyland (Melrose) *
Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints)
Blair Hutchison (Loughborough University/Melrose)
Neil Irvine-Hess (Watsonians/Edinburgh Rugby) **
Sam James (London Wasps)
Gavin Lowe (Glasgow Hawks/Glasgow Warriors) **
James Malcolm (Ayr) *
Gavin Parker (Exeter University)
Sam Pecqueur (Edinburgh Accies)
D’arcy Rae (Ayr/Glasgow Warriors) **
Jamie Ritchie (Strathallan School/Howe of Fife) *
Tommy Spinks (London Scottish) (captain)
Ben Vellacott (Hartpury/Gloucester)
Glen Young (Newcastle Falcons)
Ruairidh Young (Edinburgh Accies)
* member of Scottish Rugby’s Regional Academy supported by sportscotland Institute of Sport
**Elite Development Player 2013/14
The IRB Junior World Cup 2014 will be held in Auckland, New Zealand. Scotland’s pool games are against South Africa (Monday 2 June, k/o 3.35pm local); Samoa (Friday 6 June, k/o 3.35pm local); and New Zealand (Wednesday 10 June, k/o 7.35pm local). Further fixtures on Sunday 15 June and Friday 20 June are dependent on results. Last year, Scotland finished in 10th place in the tournament.