Johnson criticism hits home with Pyrgos
Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson must continue to tell his players like it is, scrum-half Henry Pyrgos has insisted.
The plain-talking Australian was nothing but honest when he summed up his team's display in their RBS 6 Nations opener with England last Saturday. The 38-18 defeat at Twickenham saw the visitors crack under an intense and physical assault from the English, who dominated the breakdown as they won twice as many rucks and mauls as their bullied opponents.
That left Johnson to lament that the Scots had "lost the battle" because their forwards had been "poor" in the contact zones. They were tough words to hear but understudy scrum-half Pyrgos says there is no point in the coach watering down his message. He told Press Association Sport: "I think we'd all prefer the coach didn't sugar coat his words."
Pyrgos added: "We know where we are as a squad at the moment and all we are trying to do is get better and do the country proud. We need to know where we are and Scott tells it like it is. Now, if we want to avoid another round of criticism, we need to go out and put on a performance."
Frustrations over their failure to get on top of the English pack were exacerbated by the fact speedy backs such as Tim Visser, Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland were able to hurt the home side in London on the rare occasion they were afforded quick delivery.
But Pyrgos, who is hoping for more than the final six minutes of action he received in London in Saturday's meeting with Italy, insists the problems at the breakdown can be fixed in time for the meeting with the Azzurri.
He said: "I feel like we have a really good squad and the boys know that. We have got belief.
"But that opening performance was really frustrating. There were parts when we played really well and caused them a lot of problems, and others when we let ourselves down, especially in the contact area when we were not as accurate as we should have been.
"That costs you games, especially in Test matches when things hinge on the small margins. But we can definitely fix it in time for Italy. It's a hard area - most games are won in the contact zone. Both teams are going at it and one team has to come out on top.
"We'll just have to work hard and I believe you will definitely see an improvement from last weekend to this weekend."