Henry Pyrgos ready to be challenged by Mike Blair as new coach adds variation to the Edinburgh game
Henry Pyrgos and Mike Blair go back a long way and the Edinburgh scrum-half admits it’s useful to have a head coach who played in the same position as him - and with some distinction.
Blair’s appointment this summer is widely expected to instigate a change of style at the capital club and Pyrgos is on board with that.
Edinburgh never really got going last season as they slipped from being Pro14 title contenders in the previous campaign to scuffing around in the lower reaches.
Pyrgos describes their style under Richard Cockerill as “pragmatic” and expects a little bit more adventure under Blair.
“I suppose like any coach, like every coach I’ve worked with, they coach in completely different styles,” said the 32-year-old. “He wants a lot of variation in our game. He wants us to take space where it’s given, whether that’s run, kick, and all over the pitch.”
There is a shared rugby history between the pair. Pyrgos made his Scotland debut as a second-half substitute for Blair against New Zealand in 2012 and they were team-mates at Glasgow Warriors for a spell in the 2015-16 season. The former then worked under Blair when he joined the Glasgow and Scotland coaching staff.
“Obviously Mike was a brilliant player and he’s a great coach to work with,” said Pyrgos. “It’s nice to have someone here who’s played in your position. He understands, and he can definitely give me a lot of help with my game. When I was with him at Glasgow, and with Scotland briefly, he’s always given me invaluable information, so I’m sure I’ll get more of that.
“Now he’s doing it more globally as the head coach, so he’s not just focusing on the 9s, he’s got a lot of stuff on his plate. But it’s great to have someone like that to give you insight into how he sees the game, which has been really good.
“I’ve obviously worked a little bit with Mike before, so it’s not completely new. I suppose he’s a new, different coach and he sees the game slightly differently. Especially in my position of half-back, he challenges us with our game management. He’s looking at different things, he wants to play a different style, so for us it’s probably just adapting to what he wants.
“We review the game slightly differently. And it’s always changing - it’s only been a few weeks so far really that it’s been going. In the early part of the season we’ll be learning quite a lot as we go.”
Blair, Scotland’s most capped scrum-half, was a quicksilver player and there is an anticipation that his Edinburgh team will play at a greater tempo than they did under Cockerill. The trick will be to marry that to the defensive solidity brought in by the Englishman.
“If you saw us play last year you would see it was very pragmatic,” said Pyrgos. “Mike still wants that, he wants us to make good decisions because you don’t want to give teams easy opportunities to enter your 22, but he is challenging us as decision-makers and a backs group. If the space is there to put in an attacking kick or play into an area or run out of our half. He is always challenging us like that.”