Entertainment, Sports

Challenge of the young guns fails to faze Edinburgh No9 Henry Pyrgos

HENRY Pyrgos served notice that he is not yet ready to ease slowly into retirement when he came off the bench midway through the second half of Edinburgh’s United Rugby Championship clash against Benetton two weekends ago to play an instrumental role in shifting the momentum of the match back towards his team with an excellent blindside break which took play deep into opposition territory. 

The capital No9 jersey has been hogged this season by Ben Vellacott and Charlie Shiel – younger men with reputations for playing the free-flowing, high-tempo brand of rugby championed by new head coach Mike Blair – but Pyrgos bristles at the suggestion that he is better suited to a more structured game-plan. 

It is a perception which has followed him throughout a stellar career which has included eight seasons and the 2015 PRO12 title with Glasgow Warriors. He also co-captained the team alongside Jonny Gray during the 2016-17 campaign, before switching to Edinburgh in search of more regular game time in 2018. 

Pyrgos has also collected 28 caps for Scotland, and although he has started only six of those matches, the fact he captained the national team on three of those occasions says a lot about his leadership skills and standing in the game. 

“Ben is very fast, so is Chico [Shiel], and that’s not necessarily my game but I was in the Glasgow team which won the league, and I did alright there, so I think there is different ways to bring tempo playing at scrum-half,” he retorted, when asked if he sees his role as the steady-hand providing back-up to the two younger No 9s in the Edinburgh squad. 

“I’ll stick to what I do really well and try to have a big impact on the team and help where I can. 

“This is my 12th year as a professional so there have been plenty of ups and downs over that time,” he added. “It is something you get better at dealing with as you get older. 

“I just push as hard as I can and try to keep my standards as high as possible every time I train.  

“When you have got young kids and are studying as well [for a Masters in Sport Directorship at Manchester Metropolitan University], you have other things to think about, but I am always trying to get better at the things I can do and take a lot of satisfaction from training as well as I can.” 

“Obviously, there are frustrating times, because you always want to be playing, but if that doesn’t happen you have got move on quickly. It’s a cliché but you can only control what you can control. That is something you learn, and you need to be good at it. There are a lot of ups and downs in your career.” 

Pyrgos replaced Blair when he made his international debut against New Zealand back in November 2012, so the pair go back a long way, and the younger man believes that he and his old team-mate are on the same wavelength. 

“I think Mike expects scrum-halves to execute basic skills well and bring tempo into attack, so that’s what I try to do within the overall game-plan,” he explained. 

“The game-plan has changed a little bit this season – there is different expectations and different emphasis – so it is just for me to adapt to that.  

“Under Cockers [previous head coach Richard Cockerill], he was very specific about what he wanted in certain areas in the field, whereas Mike probably challenges us more – especially the decision-makers in the team – to take responsibility.  

“So, there is more discussion and reflecting in meetings, which I enjoy and like to contribute to. 

“We probably adapt a bit more now. Watching us over the last three or four years, you probably knew what you were going to get from us, it didn’t change a lot, which had its strengths – but now we look to adapt a bit more to the opposition and situation we are in so, for me, that’s the biggest thing.” 

The Challenge Cup draw has given Edinburgh this weekend off, which means an extended build-up to their 1872 Cup clash against Glasgow Warriors on the day after Boxing Day. 

“We know that Glasgow are a really good side and it’s a derby game, so we have to play well,” concluded Pyrgos. “You’ve got to be physical in a derby game, that’s the minimum requirement, if you want to be in the game.” 

“Also, for guys looking for international honours, you are up against guys who are rivals for that jersey.  

“It is a big game and building into those weeks is very exciting. The guys want to perform well.”  

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