Vern Cotter drops Fraser Brown after England sin bin

Outgoing coach makes just one change for his final game in charge against Italy

Vern Cotter takes charge of Scotland for the final time against Italy. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Vern Cotter takes charge of Scotland for the final time against Italy. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Fraser Brown’s rush of blood to the head against England has cost the Scotland hooker his starting slot against Italy on Saturday.

Head coach Vern Cotter — who is taking charge of the Dark Blues for the final time — has recalled Ross Ford to start against the Azzurri at Murrayfield after Brown wrecked his plans for the Auld Enemy with his Twickenham sin-binning.

The Glasgow front-rower was shown a yellow card just 90 seconds into the clash with Eddie Jones’s team after dumping wing Elliot Daly to the turf with a dangerous tip tackle.

Brown was spared further punishment on Tuesday when an independent disciplinary panel ruled his challenge did not merit a red card.

But Cotter has now decided to hand Ford his first start of the championship and his 107th international cap.

The Edinburgh forward will need just two more caps after this weekend to equal Chris Paterson’s Test record for a Scottish player.

Ford’s inclusion is the only change to the starting XV ripped apart by the English last weekend as they went on to claim a record-equalling 61-21 triumph.

Although their title hopes were snuffed out by that humiliating defeat, Scotland can still finish as runners up for the first time since the tournament was expanded to six teams in 2000.

Cotter will be relieved to see the likes of Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson declare themselves fit after suffering head knocks last weekend. Finn Russell, Huw Jones and Richie Gray have also shaken off knocks to take on the struggling Italians, who have lost all four of their games to date.

The only other change to the match-day squad sees Gloucester centre Matt Scott return to the bench to replace Mark Bennett, who lasted just two minutes as a first-half replacement against England before suffering leg and arm injuries.

Cotter said: “The players were frustrated by last weekend but we must take all the learnings from the past years and produce a strong, complete performance to put us in the best possible position to finish in the top half of the table.

“We want to repay the support of another sell-out crowd.

“Matches between Scotland and Italy have always been tough affairs. We have a lot of respect for them and feel they have been improving throughout the competition.

“They showed in this campaign they can be innovative, so preparation has been key to ensuring we put in a good performance. We have to be ready for anything.”

Scotland: Hogg (Glasgow); Seymour (Glasgow), Jones (Stormers), Dunbar (Glasgow), Visser (Harlequins); Russell (Glasgow), Price (Glasgow); Reid (Glasgow), Ford (Edinburgh), Fagerson (Glasgow), R Gray (Toulouse), J Gray (Glasgow), Barclay (Scarlets, capt), Watson (Edinburgh), Wilson (Glasgow). Replacements: Brown (Glasgow), Dell (Edinburgh), Berghan (Edinburgh), Swinson (Glasgow), Du Preez (Edinburgh), Pyrgos (Glasgow), Weir (Edinburgh), Scott (Gloucester).

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