sport

Pyrgos eyeing starting spot

Scotland scrum-half Henry Pyrgos insists he is ready to step out of the shadows and compete to become the long-term heir to Mike Blair.

Blair, the 85-time capped Brive half-back, hung up his international boots just before the start of this year's RBS 6 Nations, saying travelling from France to represent his country was taking to much of a toll on his family life.

He has been replaced in interim head coach Scott Johnson's line-up for the first two games of the Six Nations by Edinburgh's Greig Laidlaw, a player who has flitted between number nine and stand-off for much of the last year.

Laidlaw has already confirmed he would prefer to stay in his current role but that has not stopped 23-year-old Glasgow rival Pyrgos expressing his own claim, despite only featuring for the final six minutes of last Saturday's Calcutta Cup meeting with England.

He said: "I'm just trying to push Greig all the way. He's a really good player but I also have Sean Kennedy coming up behind me from the A squad, so there's a lot of competition in that position.

"I'm just working to try to improve and get better and make it a hard decision for the coaches.

"Mike was an awesome player for us. He was a Lion and a really great guy as well. He had an amazing career and it was sad that he wanted to retire.

"But it has opened up an opportunity for me. Hopefully I can take that and make a point to the coaches that I am good enough to replace him."

Italy visit Murrayfield this Saturday having picked up an opening weekend win as they stunned France in Rome.

It was a display which hides the fact the Azzurri are still relative newcomers to Six Nations rugby and hinted at a maturing self-confidence which has seen club sides like Treviso make huge strides this season in both the RaboDirect Pro12 and Heineken Cup.

Their dismissal of Les Blues may spell trouble for the Scots - who were stung by a 13-6 defeat of their own in the Olympic Stadium in last year's tournament - but Pyrgos insists it is only good news for the game in Europe.

He said: "It's an amazing tournament and seeing that result on Sunday, I thought it was great for the Six Nations.

"They did that to us last year and it's no surprise to see them playing well again.

"We have played against some of their guys in the RaboDirect Pro12 and it's going to be a huge contest this weekend. That result against France has made it even more so.

"Treviso have been doing really well in the league but struggled in the Heineken Cup. However, they have pushed Toulouse and Leicester really close on a couple of occasions.

"They have got some really good players and that is now coming to the fore for the national team."