Henry Pyrgos was 'in bed with the flu' when World Cup call came but fighting fit now and eager to grasp second chance
Henry Pyrgos revealed he was in his sick bed when he received the call that he was needed out in Japan following fellow scrum-half Ali Price’s tournament-shattering foot injury in the opening 27-3 loss to Ireland.
The 30-year-old former Glasgow, now Edinburgh No 9 had been cut by head coach Gregor Townsend from extended training squad back on 9 August, leaving Greig Laidlaw, Price and George Horne as the chosen three in that position leading up to the World Cup.
That’s the way it has been for a couple of years now as the 30-year-old Pyrgos, who was vice-captain at the last World Cup and skippered Scotland the last time they played Japan in Tokyo on the 2016 summer tour, has fallen down the pecking order.
“I was in bed with the flu when I got the call. It was Gregor and he said Ali had picked up an injury would I like to come out.
“That was the Monday and I left on the Wednesday and arrived here on Thursday. When I got the call I felt great and I felt great getting the chance to get back out with the squad and represent Scotland at the World Cup.”
With Laidlaw almost certain to be rested for Wednesday’s clash with Russia in Shizuoka, Pyrgos is set to play a part along with Horne in the selected 23 tasked with getting the bonus-point win that sets up a shoot-out with the hosts.
It would be Pyrgos’s first World Cup appearance since he led the team out against the United States in the second pool game at Elland Road in Leeds four years ago for what is his only taste of the sport's biggest tournament.
“I felt sorry for Ali. For him it would be hard to take. It was his first World Cup and tough for him but a good opportunity for me,” said Pyrgos.
“It took me a wee while to get over the jetlag but I have been out here before. I went straight to the training ground on Thursday and the boys had a day off on the Friday which gave me a chance to settle in. I trained on the Saturday and felt right. It’s been good.”
Pyrgos has not played for Scotland since the November Test against Australia in 2017 but, having continued to be part of squads, had never given up hope that he’d get another chance.
“I really enjoy playing for Scotland, it’s a massive honour everytime you get involved,” he said. “It’s a competitive position the one I’m in and missing out on the World Cup is disappointing, especially when you work really hard and hope to get that opportunity but sometimes you don’t get it. It is what it is.
“I continued to train hard and work for selection, if that comes brilliant, if it doesn’t it probably doesn’t change my mindset much. You keep giving it to your club and working hard on the training pitch and get ready for the next opportunity.”
Pyrgos also played in Japan ten years ago for the Scotland Under-20s in a junior World Cup squad that also included current national skipper Stuart McInally, Fraser Brown, Pete Horne, Ryan Wilson and Grant Gilchrist.
The youngsters pipped Japan 12-7 in that one and, after the 21-16 win on that summer tour three years ago, Pyrgos has a sense of what is coming.
“It’s similar. Really humid and hot, slippy ball. Japan were really good [in 2016],” he recalled. “Fast, fit and moving the ball side to side and we were a little bit inaccurate at times. We respect Japan and they’re a quality team, it was a tough team and we came over and got the win in the end but we know what a challenge it will be.
“When I first came with the Under-20s [2009 Junior World Cup] and it was big crowds and then again when I came with Scotland in 2016 it was loud and when it comes around I’m sure it will be a huge game but if the boys keep saying we’ve got to deal with Russia first.”
• Our Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup coverage is brought to you in association with Castle Water www.castlewater.co.uk