Six Nations: Uni berth catalyst for Henry Pyrgos

It is a sporting institution renowned for producing some of the greatest athletes these islands have ever seen.

And, so far, as the last player to score as try for Scotland at Murrayfield is concerned, just being around Loughborough University was sufficient to fuel the desire of Henry Pyrgos to reach international level himself.

Scrum half Pyrgos, 23, may be very much the quiet man of the Scotland squad who face Italy in Edinburgh this Saturday in the latest round of the RBS Six Nations Championship, however, he waxes lyrical that mixing with the cream of British sport at the Loughborough gave him insight into what he had to do to make the grade in rugby as well as renewed determination.

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“Loughborough has facilities that are second to none and there are so many Great Britain representatives walking around the campus.

“I went as a rugby player and I am not only grateful for the opportunity to play at a standard in England’s national League division one that toughened me up but for the fact that I became convinced I had to put my head down to achieve a rugby goal.”

So, when then Glasgow Warriors coach Sean Lineen called offering him a trial there was only one thing to do.

“I travelled north having been playing for the Scotland age-group sides through having a Scottish mother (from Grangemouth) and when a contract offer arrived I gave up studying Chemistry and Sports Science.

“I knew it was my main chance to get into pro rugby and so far as studies are concerned I’ve entered the Open University to keep myself busy away from rugby.”

Taking advantage of an injury to British Lion Chris Cusiter, Pyrgos propelled himself into the reckoning this season and following a six-minute cameo appearance on his debut against New Zealand the highlight of his Test career so far came next up against South Africa.

Gathering the ball from an attacking line-out just after he’d emerged off the bench in the 67th minute, Pyrgos shot through a gap to score against the twice world champions. Now Pyrgos, whose Cypriot-born dad coaches rugby at Bryanston School near the family home in Dorset, looks forward to stepping back on to Murrayfield having added to his cap total against Tonga and England.

“It was an amazing experience to score that try against South Africa and one which left me wanting more. Like everyone I was disappointed with the overall result but on a personal note it gave me a great deal of confidence to take forward. With a game the following week there wasn’t really time to savour it but it was certainly what I dreamt of growing up.”

As for the Italians, Pyrgos has had a close up of most of Saturday’s opponents in the Rabo Direct League with Treviso and Zebre providing the bulk of the side.

He says: “Italy’s set-piece is good and there are some hugely physical ball carriers.

“Treviso struggled for a win in this season’s Heineken European Cup but they did run Leicester and Toulouse very close while Luciano Orquera (man of the match during last week’s Italian win over France) really impressed me when his Zebre side played Glasgow.

“Orquera is a really tidy stand off who who showed his ability to break against France.”

On the subject of breaks, Henry acknowledges the importance of being selected by Scotland Under-20s for a world cup in Japan a few years ago.

“That tournament confirmed to me I was right to begin concentrating on rugby. As a teenager I’d played a range of sports and even had three centuries playing cricket for Dorset 
Under-15 schools. But, encouraged by my dad and a mum who is really into hockey, I grew closer to rugby,” says the man who is desperate to achieve his first win in the senior dark blue jersey on Saturday.