Unlike most of the Edinburgh squad, scrum-half Henry Pyrgos is well used to the high-pressure intensity of these December double headers in Europe’s elite competition and will hope to bring his experience to bear in the upcoming games against Newcastle Falcons.
The make or break middle rounds of the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage are something the former Glasgow player became accustomed to at Scotstoun and the 29-year-old, who wasn’t involved with Scotland in the recent November series, is relishing the big stage.
“Every game in the league and Europe is a big game for us, but double-headers in Europe are an exciting time,” said Pyrgos. “It shows you where you’re going to end up in the group. It’s a big opportunity that can put you in contention or take you out of contention and obviously with the 1872 Cup coming up it’s a big couple of months coming up.
“If you don’t win the games in Europe you’re probably struggling to get out of the pool, so it’s a big couple of games.”
Pyrgos is fully focused on the Newcastle double bill, starting with tomorrow night’s visit of the surprise Pool 5 leaders to BT Murrayfield but also has half an eye on the festive clashes with his old Warriors team-mates.
“It’s a big couple of games because there are ten points up for grabs. If you lose them it’s not the end of the world, but all points in the league are important to us if we want to make the knockout stages,” said the man who has 27 Scotland caps.
“Where we are in our Conference we’ve got some teams playing well above us. Obviously we’re chasing them and with ten points up for grabs, I wouldn’t say it puts us out of it if we don’t win them both, but they’re important games.”
Pyrgos has been suitably impressed with Newcastle’s wins over Toulon and Montpellier so far and feels that makes their current status as English Premiership basement boys misleading.
“We’ve spoken about that. They’re a team that want to play 80 minutes,” said the scrum-half. “They’ve had some big wins at the end of games. We know they’re going to play right to the death.
“We played them pre-season, it was a real physical game and they’ve got some quality individuals, so we’re expecting Newcastle to bring their best game. They’ve obviously beaten Toulon away, which not many teams do and Montpellier at home, so we’re going to have to play really well to win.
“I’ve never played in the Premiership, but speaking to the boys who do it’s a really attritional league, so maybe for them going into Europe there’s a little bit less pressure. They’ve obviously cut loose and played really well.
“We’ve watched those games and they’ve created a lot of line breaks. They’ve got some dangerous runners, so we’re aware of that and we know we can’t give those dangerous ball carriers lots of time and space because they’re going to cause us lots of problems if we do. It’ll be important that we defend really well this weekend and take away their space.”
Edinburgh beat the Falcons 23-13 in that friendly at Kingston Park back in August but Pyrgos accepts that the intensity of Heineken Champions Cup rugby will be a world away from that hit-out.
“There are slight tendencies you pick up, you’ve got things you pick up from that game,” he said. “Obviously we’ve got video to look at it but it is pre-season with big squads. We’re going down there with 30 boys, there’s a lot of changes off the bench that you don’t normally see in league and European games, so there are bits we’ve taken but it’s not everything, no.”