Former team-mate Chris Cusiter believes that the responsibility of co-captaincy at Glasgow Warriors is helping Henry Pyrgos take his game to the next level.
Cusiter, who retired from pro rugby in the summer to move to America and set up a new business, has watched from afar this season as the Warriors have made a good start in the Guinness Pro12 and then defeated Leicester Tigers in the Champions Cup opener last Friday.
Pyrgos grabbed a try in the 42-13 demolition of the English side at Scotstoun and was one of the stand-out performers.
And Cusiter, the 34-year-old who won 70 Scotland caps and played for the Warriors from 2009 to 2014, has been impressed by the way that Pyrgos has been playing.
“Henry is a top-class scrum-half. His kicking game is accomplished, he has a slick service and he organises very well. He’s also very smart and can control a game,” Cusiter said.
“I imagine that he will be enjoying co-captaincy and using his leadership skills and experience to help the team and it is great to see him doing well, he has a bright future.”
When Scotland head coach Vern Cotter names his squad for the autumn Tests next week, Pyrgos will be included – barring injury – along with skipper Greig Laidlaw.
Next summer Laidlaw is to move to France to play for Clermont Auvergne and, having had a spell over there himself, Cusiter has some tips for the Gloucester man.
“I would say to Greig, expect the unexpected! Things are definitely different over there, although he is going to a very professional club and they will help him settle in,” Cusiter, who played for Perpignan between 2007 and 2009, said.“He’ll do well over there, a goal-kicking scrum-half who can play stand-off is a very French thing and they like that versatility. It will also help him massively if he can start learning French before he heads over as it makes settling in easier.”
This week Pyrgos and his Warriors team-mates are preparing for their second Champions Cup match at Munster.
There will be a sombre atmosphere at Thomond Park on Saturday following the death of the Munster head coach Anthony Foley, 42, on Sunday.
However, the Warriors will have to focus and remain professional – and Cusiter has his own memories of winning there.
In April 2014 he skippered the Warriors as they came out on top 22-5 in Limerick in the Pro12, Jonny Gray, Sean Maitland and Josh Strauss bagging tries and Duncan Weir kicking seven points.
“I remember it being a great feeling to win over there,” Cusiter, pictured below, said.
“Munster were strangely subdued for the whole match, but we knew exactly what we were trying to do and executed it pretty well. Josh Strauss was at his destructive best and we kept up the intensity for the whole game.
“Any of us who had been around for long enough had taken some beatings at Thomond Park so it was a welcome change to win over there. I think the Warriors boys will be on a high after the Leicester win. What Gregor Townsend has created at the club is just exceptional – a great rugby team who play for each other and for the city.
“I think the boys can make the knock-out stages in Europe, but they need to be able to win on the road at least a couple of times. That would be no mean feat considering the teams that are in the group, but they have a chance for sure.”
And Cusiter praised Townsend, who leaves the Warriors to become Scotland head coach next summer, for what the coach did for his own career.
He said: “I think he challenged me in a way that I needed at that point of my career.
“We had the odd disagreement, but he definitely made me a better rugby player and some of my best memories from rugby are from playing under his guidance.
“I have nothing but respect and admiration for what he has built and achieved at Glasgow.
“Nowadays I’m enjoying the challenge of owning my own business www.lovescotch.com. It has been hard for sure, but it has definitely been an adventure and we love living in California.”