Henry Pyrgos to captain Scotland against Ireland
Glasgow Warriors scrum-half to lead Dark Blues in first Rugby World Cup warm-up in Dublin on Saturday afternoon
Henry Pyrgos has been named Scotland captain for Saturday’s clash with Ireland as Vern Cotter’s charges look to bounce back from a disappointing RBS Six Nations whitewash.
The Glasgow Warriors scrum-half, who missed the abysmal Six Nations campaign through injury, will make just his third start for the Dark Blues at the Aviva Stadium as they begin a four-game warm-up series ahead of the Rugby World Cup next month.
We have four matches before the tournament; four 80-minute spells in which we can practice our combinations and work our plays, in attack and defence, providing opportunities for a number of players to compete for a place in the final 31.
Cotter’s 25-man squad for the trip to the Irish capital features a number of fringe players hoping to make the final 31-man squad for next month’s showpiece event alongside a number of recent Scotland regulars.
And the Kiwi’s experimental side will face a baptism of fire in Dublin against an increasingly buoyant Ireland.
Barely four months after defending their Six Nations title with a thumping 40-10 win over the Scots at BT Murrayfield, an experimental Ireland put Wales to the sword with a 35-21 win in Cardiff last Saturday, a result which moved them up to number two in the latest World Rugby rankings.
Speaking in June about Scotland’s preparations for the Rugby World Cup, Cotter said: “Our priorities will focus on the major aspects of the game.
“Physically we’ll be working very hard to find peak form. We know that teams play better in the Rugby World Cup, and we want to be one of those teams.
“We have four matches before the tournament; four 80-minute spells in which we can practice our combinations and work our plays, in attack and defence, providing opportunities for a number of players to compete for a place in the final 31.”
On the back of another plaudit-winning season in the Guinness PRO12 with the Scarlets, John Barclay – who can play at openside or number eight – could make his first Scotland appearance since November 2013 if named in the match-day squad announced on Thursday.
After an impressive second half of the season with Edinburgh, flanker-cum-hooker Stuart McInally is among a glut of forwards hopeful of making their Scotland debut, along with Edinburgh loosehead prop Allan Dell and Glasgow Warriors tighthead prop Mike Cusack.
New Zealand-born back-row forward Hugh Blake, controversially called up to the Six Nations squad in January despite not playing a professional game for Edinburgh, is also named in the squad and could make his senior international debut three months after scoring a try on his debut with the Scotland Sevens team.
Wasps outside-half Ruaridh Jackson, who started three matches at the 2011 Rugby World Cup but missed all of last season with a leg injury, and Warriors’ Duncan Weir are both expected to feature in the match as they look to back-up Finn Russell, who has established himself as Cotter’s first-choice.
The backline should also feature a Glasgow Warriors duo with Rugby World Cup experience.
Veteran wing/centre Sean Lamont has won eight of his 93 caps at the 2007 and 2011 tournaments, while centre Richie Vernon made three appearances as a back-row forward in New Zealand four years ago.
After helping the Warriors win the Guinness PRO12 title for the first time last season, versatile back Peter Horne is another player looking to impress with centre trio Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar and Matt Scott battle their way back from injury, while Edinburgh duo Greig Tonks and Dougie Fife need big performances this month if they are to force their way into the final squad.
Forwards: John Barclay (Scarlets), Hugh Blake (Unattached), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Mike Cusack (Glasgow Warriors), David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby), Allan Dell (Edinburgh), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons).
Backs: Dougie Fife (Edinburgh), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (Wasps), Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors, captain), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Tonks (Edinburgh), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Visser (Harlequins), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors)