Tuesday 19 November 2019

Henry Pyrgos: We're not going to get bogged down with settling scores against Ireland

Henry Pyrgos
Henry Pyrgos

Andy Newport

Henry Pyrgos admits finding out he would captain Scotland on Saturday was the proudest moment of his life.

The 26-year-old has been selected by head coach Vern Cotter to lead Scotland as they kick off their World Cup preparations with a Test clash against Ireland.

But Glasgow scrum-half Pyrgos knows he must now prove he is not bottom of the pecking order in the battle for the number nine jersey.

The match in Dublin is Pyrgos' big chance to stake a claim for a place in Scotland's final 31-man squad for the tournament.

Greig Laidlaw not only held the scrum-half slot during this year's RBS 6 Nations but also captained the side.

His former Edinburgh understudy Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, meanwhile, has blossomed since Laidlaw moved to Gloucester last summer and was named the Guinness Pro12's young player of the year.

Pyrgos did help his Warriors team to the Pro12 title but acknowledges that his half-back rivals are in the driving seat.

"It's how it is going to go," said Dorset-born Pyrgos when asked about the scrum-half fight.

"Greig has been starting obviously and Sam has been coming off the bench so (talk of them being favourites to start at the World Cup) is always going to be the case.

"I won the Pro12 but I wasn't there with Scotland. However, I was happy with the way I finished the season. It was an amazing experience with Glasgow and that has put all the Glasgow guys in a good position I think.

"But ultimately we are all starting from scratch again now.

"The competition in training is pretty fierce and I'm just lucky to be involved. Now I've got the opportunity to play this weekend, do well and put down the first marker.

"Vern has already spelled out that every jersey, from one to 15, is still up for grabs. He wants to see people improve in training and in games. If you do that you are putting yourself in a great position to get a shirt at the World Cup."

Pyrgos has captained his club side on three previous occasions and believes he can handle the responsibility of walking the national team out at the Aviva Stadium.

"It's amazing," he said. "I didn't expect to be in this situation but finding out about this is the proudest day of my life.

"I know my family are thrilled too but I want to now justify it by going out and putting on a good performance.

"As a scrum-half, you have quite a big influence in the way the team plays in both defence and attack. That's why you see a few nines getting that chance to be captain. You are always in a position where you are making decisions and communicating with the squad.

"So I wouldn't say being skipper this weekend is a massive change. I will obviously still be focusing on my own game so that the team has a clear understanding of what we are trying to do.

"But it won't just fall to me. We have a squad full of leaders who will come out and have their say."

Scotland - who will also warm up for their Pool B opener with Japan on September 23 with home and away clashes with Italy and a trip to Paris to face France - will return to action this weekend five months after ending a miserable Six Nations campaign with a 41-10 thumping from title winners Ireland.

It was another day to forget from a squad which lost all five games but Pyrgos insists Scotland are now looking forward, not back.

"I don't think the guys will get bogged down trying to settle scores," he said.

"We all understand it was a really disappointing result.

"We've spoken a little bit about that as a squad. It wasn't the way we wanted to finish the Six Nations. Ireland, though, are a quality team and we need to go out this weekend, focus on our own roles and try to put it together for a good performance before putting them under pressure."

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