HENRY Pyrgos has admitted that Glasgow’s focus remains on securing a Guinness Pro12 home semi-final for the second successive season.
Despite beating Scarlets 22-7 at rain-lashed Scotstoun on Friday, Warriors failed to claim the bonus point on offer that would have accompanied a fourth try.
With leaders Ospreys defeating Dragons 22-11 on Sunday, Glasgow’s tenure at the top of the Pro12 table was limited to less than 48 hours. Munster and Leinster also won against Zebre and Cardiff respectively with just three points separating the top four teams, and Pyrgos is aware this season’s league championship is the tightest he has experienced in his five years at Glasgow.
The 25-year-old missed Friday’s successful revenge mission over Wayne Pivac’s side but is hopeful of a return to the fray when Montpellier come calling at Scotstoun on Sunday, in a European Rugby Champions Cup Pool Four encounter that is likely to prove pivotal to Warriors’ hopes of making the last eight for the first time.
With a trip to the Rec to face Bath following a week later, Pyrgos admitted that he is desperate to feature and flourish for Glasgow in these “big games” and in doing so catch the eye of Scotland head coach Vern Cotter ahead of the impending RBS Six Nations campaign.
“We achieved a home semi-final in the Pro12 last season and we want to do that again. It is a case of taking it one game at a time but that is the target,” said the Glasgow No 9. “We have made Scotstoun a bit of a fortress over the last season, with the 15-game unbeaten run, and it was great to get the win over Scarlets to continue that, but the atmosphere against Munster last season in the semi-final was fantastic. The fans gave us great support and we must do every-thing we can to achieve that.
“But we know how tough that will be, as I think with European qualification [only the top seven sides qualify for Champions Cup] the Pro12 has become even tougher and that bit tighter this season and I think the brand of rugby you are getting in the Guinness Pro12 is really exciting.
“But if you look at how tight the league is right the way through it, there is no question it has got more competitive. So you can only ever focus on the next game.”
With Glasgow’s European Cup Pool Four campaign concluding over the next two weeks with must-win games against Montpellier and Bath, Pyrgos admits he is relishing the prospect and says he will tackle these encounters in the knowledge that his game is evolving all the time under the expert tutelage of Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend.
Pyrgos said: “I feel like I have been improving and now with the new two-year contract I am in a good place and can hopefully kick-on again. We have some very big games coming up with the European fixtures and I would love to play in them.
“I feel like my game has improved with increased maturity but a big part of the way I am progressing is down to Gregor. Obviously with him having been a No 10 he has a huge awareness of the role of scrum-half and how the partnership at nine and ten should control a game.
“He goes over the game with me and really looks at my game management and decision- making and that is very beneficial to me. I know I have a lot to improve on, also with the running side of my game, and I feel I am progressing in all of that. A big part of that has been the work Gregor has done with me and also learning from Cus [Chris Cusiter)] and Niko Matawalu. But I know that if I concentrate on doing my job well with Glasgow then it will stand me in good stead with Scotland, so all my focus is concentrating on Glasgow.”
When Matawalu departs in the summer, Pyrgos will be the only recognised top class nine left at Glasgow with tyros Ali Price, who came off the bench for the Fijian in Friday night’s victory over the Scarlets and Murray McConnell providing the competition, should Warriors fail to augment their resources at scrum-half. Pyrgos admitted that the maverick Fijian will be a tough act to replace: “Niko will be a huge miss when he leaves. He has that something extra as he showed against Edinburgh at Murrayfield but I’m sure Ali and Murray will push me all the way but hopefully the club will bring in additions.”
Meanwhile, after delaying his team selection for the Scarlets game due to the horrific weather conditions forecast and subsequently endured at Scotstoun on Friday, Townsend may repeat this ploy for Sunday’s pivotal meeting with Montpellier.
He said: “We didn’t pick our team until Thursday [for Scarlets] and that gave us an understanding of what the weather would be like and it suited a lot of the players we had out for the Scarlets game. It was great to get the win in front of our home fans but Montpellier will pose us a lot of different problems.
“They play differently to Scarlets but we have given ourselves a positive platform into it and that was hugely important after a tough loss at Edinburgh.”