THE last time Henry Pyrgos played a match for his club, the scrum-half scored a try and Glasgow won the Pro12 title in Belfast. That final marked his 99th appearance in Warriors’ colours and since then he has been marking time before marking his century, which Pyrgos will finally reach this afternoon when the Cardiff Blues visit Scotstoun.
Pyrgos injured the ligaments in his wrist but opted to delay surgery until after the World Cup, when he captained Scotland against the USA Eagles. His belated appointment with the sawbones took place immediately after Scotland exited the World Cup but the injury has taken its own sweet time to heal and today is Pyrgos’ first club match since May, 2015.
“I spoke to a lot of different people who I respect, and got some advice,” says the cerebral scrum-half, who weighs up each sentence like a Michelin chef. “It wasn’t an easy decision. I knew if I went to the World Cup I was going to miss a lot of Glasgow’s season, which has been hugely disappointing. But at the same time getting to play for Scotland at the World Cup was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
“It’s great to be back. We’ve won the last two so we’ve got a bit of momentum but we’re up against a strong Cardiff team who have been playing well recently. It’s also great to be back at Scotstoun. It’s a massive game for us. We need to keep that [winning streak] going against a very good team.
“Obviously it would be great if we were sitting top of the league, but that’s not how it’s gone this season for us. But we know if we get in that top four anything’s possible towards the end of the season.
“We’re taking each game as it comes. That’s obviously a bit of a cliché, but it’s true at the moment. Every game’s a big game, and we need to concentrate on Cardiff. Get a win here this weekend and then we can move on to the next one.”
One person’s injury is another’s opportunity but while Ali Price has impressed with his speed of thought and service during his rival’s rehabilitation, his game management is a work in progress. Pyrgos is one of those undemonstrative players who is only missed when he is not there. His kicking from hand is probably the best of any Scotland scrum-half and his option-taking well nigh perfect. He looks like the natural successor to Greig Laidlaw but his first focus is on lifting Glasgow into the play-off places.
Pyrgos has been part of the fixtures and fittings at Scotstoun for a good while now after making his debut back in September, 2010 against a Leinster side led by Joe Schmidt. There were a few familiar faces in the Glasgow team that got their new scrum-half off to a winning start.
“It was good, we won!” says Pyrgos when asked about that first ever appearance. “It was a tough season, actually, but a lot of the guys who were in their first years with me then are still at the club, which is nice. Guys like Chris Fusaro, Rob Harley, Ryan Wilson, Ryan Grant, they’ve all gone on to get 100 caps and more for Glasgow. I look back on that with fond memories. It’s nice that a lot of that group stuck together; probably a reason why we’ve done well over the last years.
“I think we finished in the top four the year before I came. We had a few guys leaving – Dan Parks moved on, Kelly Brown – so it was a bit of a transition to guys who hadn’t played much professional rugby. But we got a lot of experience at that young age and it boded well in the next few years. We’ve got a really competitive squad.”
Glasgow seem to be getting bodies back on to the field just when it matters most.
Alex Dunbar, left, gets his second start outside of Pyrgos and Mark Bennett plays his first Glasgow game since injuring his shoulder early in January, although the centre does have three Six Nations matches under his belt, and Fraser Brown makes his second start since injury in the middle in the front row.
Pyrgos and Glasgow have both come a long way since they were first paired back in 2010-11. That season the Warriors finished 11th in the league and attracted crowds of 2,000-plus to Firhill. Now the league champions regularly display “sold out” signs at Scotstoun but they have work to do on the field to emulate last season’s success, as their scrum-half concedes.
“I love Glasgow. I love the city, I love playing with this squad of boys, and we’ve got a great coaching staff and a really good squad of players,” says Pyrgos. “It’s been great to see the club grow over the last five or six years since I’ve been here. It’s been really exciting and hopefully that’ll continue.
“I want to be part of a successful Glasgow Warriors team. We’ve got a chance of making the top four this season and we want to try and build that momentum. Get into the top four and give ourselves a chance, because I know how special it was last year to win the league.
“It was something we’d worked really hard for and it was an amazing feeling to be involved in those big games. That’s what all players want to do, so we’ll work hard to make sure we’re back there.”
It’s been a long time coming and Pyrgos will hope that his one 100th appearance for Glasgow is as successful as his first.