Gregor Townsend expects Jamie Ritchie to reply positively to dropping the Scotland captaincy as he challenged the Edinburgh flanker to get again to “his top level” and guide himself a beginning berth for the opening Guinness Six Nations match away to Wales.
The 27-year-old changed Stuart Hogg as skipper for the 2022 autumn Tests and in addition led the Scots in final 12 months’s Six Nations and on the World Cup in France.
However, with Ritchie now not assured a beginning place amid intense competitors within the back-row, it was revealed on Sunday that Townsend had appointed Bath stand-off Finn Russell and Glasgow flanker Rory Darge as his new co-captains forward of the upcoming championship.
“He’s reacted really well,” mentioned Townsend, when requested on Monday on the Six Nations launch in Dublin how Ritchie had taken the information. “I’ve been in communication for a few weeks now around his game and also the captaincy.
“He was well aware that we were going to leave this decision until the weekend. The focus for him is about getting into the team that plays Wales and he’s really determined to do that. That will be tough because the competition we have in the back-row right now is at a high level.
“We’re all optimistic that this (relinquishing the captaincy) will bring out the best in Jamie and he can be one of our best players, back at his top level.
“We saw on Friday night when he came off the bench against Scarlets, there was a real hunger and intent about how he went through his game. The competition in the back-row and the ability to just focus on that at training should be a positive for him leading into the Wales game.”
“He can be one of our best players but he is competing with some guys who are in really good form at openside and blindside. Jamie will be a key leader for us if he’s in the 23 or the XV.”Glasgow back-rower Darge is hopeful of being match for the beginning of the event regardless of considerations he could be out till late February with a knee damage sustained in opposition to Edinburgh on the finish of December. The 23-year-old declared on Monday “I’m aiming for one of the first two games.”https://twitter.com/Scotlandteam/standing/1749408226532081953?s=20“We got good news on Rory on Friday that he’s able to start that rehab process and we’ll assess how he goes after a week’s rehab,” mentioned Townsend.The prognosis will not be so promising for free-scoring Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham, who will miss not less than the primary two video games in opposition to Wales and France with a quad situation.“He’s obviously very disappointed,” mentioned Townsend.
“He played against Gloucester (on January 13) and was tight around the quad area so we thought it would be worth getting a scan, hoping it would be a week to two-week injury at most because that’s what happened when he had the same problem during the World Cup warm-up games.
“But it was actually more significant. We’re hopeful he’ll be available for round three (at home to England on February 24) but it all just depends how it reacts when he starts rehab again.”