Henry Pyrgos to captain Scotland in second Test in Japan
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has stuck with his promise to give every member of his touring squad some game time by making six changes for the second Test against Japan.
Skipper Greig Laidlaw is among those to be rotated out of the starting XV, with Henry Pyrgos coming in at scrum-half and taking the captain’s armband.
South Africa-based centre Huw Jones is set to win his first cap from the bench, while Moray Low starts at tighthead prop in place of Willem Nel, who is among the replacements.
There is also a shake-up in the back row with the ball-carrying skills of Josh Strauss being drafted in at flanker and John Barclay moving from blindside to openside.
John Hardie drops to the bench after 16 months of non-stop action when he backed up a Super Rugby season in New Zealand with a move to Scotland in time for the World Cup.
“It’s a bit of everything,” Cotter said. “Evening up the workload is something we considered, especially in light of the amount of work we had to go through last week. We had the eight-hour transition (in time zones) and then one of the fastest and most physical games we’ve had this year.
“Recovery was very important this week and we had a few injuries that had an effect.
“WP (Nel) couldn’t train early on in the week so it is a great opportunity for that front row to start. Rory (Sutherland) gets a start with Stuart (McInally), who I thought put in a good shift, and Moray Low.”
The change in captain is unlikely to have a marked effect on the side especially since Cotter revealed that Pyrgos would also be the first-choice goal-kicker – a role he has sometimes taken for Glasgow Warriors but never before in a Test.
“Henry is a great striker of the ball. He has probably been more consistent in practice, putting them through on a regular basis,” Cotter added.
“Henry will showcase his skill set. He takes responsibility and leadership squarely and seriously. He’ll be doing his best to make sure the team move round the paddock in the right way and at the right time and make the right choices. It is exciting for him.”
After sitting on the bench last week as the only replacement on either side not to be used, Pyrgos was relieved to be getting a go this time after a season that started well but was undermined by a wrist injury.
He said: “It was frustrating after the World Cup with the operation, but I feel I found some good form with Glasgow and is is great to be back involved with Scotland.
“It is a huge privilege and honour every time you are named in the squad and to get a start is brilliant. I am really looking forward to it.
“I feel I have had a few games under my belt and been around the Scotland squad. Being captain does bring a slightly different element, there are things you have to think about. If you are not captain, you just think about your own role.
“Things are slightly different but I have had a few opportunities with Glasgow and a few times with Scotland so it is something I have grown into and enjoy.
“First and foremost in the end we have to go out and play well so that is my main focus, do that well and hope the team put in a good performance and then it becomes an easier job.”
Scotland: S Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); T Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), M Scott (Gloucester), P Horne (Glasgow Warriors) S Maitland (Saracens); R Jackson (Harlequins), H Pyrgos (C) (Glasgow Warriors); R Sutherland (Edinburgh), S McInally (Edinburgh), M Low (Exeter), R Gray (Toulouse), J Gray (Glasgow Warriors), J Strauss (Glasgow Warriors), J Barclay (Scarlets), R Wilson (Glasgow Warriors). Replacements: F Brown (Glasgow Warriors), G Reid (Glasgow Warriors), W Nel (Edinburgh Rugby), T Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), J Hardie (Edinburgh), G Laidlaw (Gloucester), H Jones (Stormers), S Lamont (Glasgow Warriors).