Vern goes with Ford for Italian clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has made one change to the starting XV to face Italy in this Saturday’s final Six Nations match at BT Murrayfield.
The one change sees Ross Ford start in his first match of the championship in place of hooker Fraser Brown, who moves to the bench.
Brown is accompanied by Gloucester centre Matt Scott, who joins an otherwise unchanged bench in place of injured Glasgow Warriors back Mark Bennett, who damaged his knee and arm in the early part of last weekend’s loss to England.
Six of the starting side were nursing injuries earlier this week, with Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson continuing their graduated return to play protocol, while Finn Russell, Huw Jones (both knee) and Richie Gray (hamstring) have recovered.
Providing the trio complete the progressive protocol, Hogg and Seymour will be joined by Harlequins wing Tim Visser once more, while captain John Barclay and Hamish Watson accompany Ryan Wilson in the loose forwards.
At lock, Jonny Gray will partner brother Richie, with Glasgow Warriors duo Zander Fagerson and Gordon Reid packing down in the front-row with Ford.
Halfbacks Ali Price and Finn Russell join centres Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones in the starting line-up for the third test in a row.
Scotland head coach, Vern 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,"
A win for Scotland could see them equal their best-ever finish in the campaign (currently third on three previous occasions), while other results could conspire to help Scotland to second place for the first time since the Five Nations became six in 2000.
Cotter added: "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: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (Captain), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Cornell Du Preez, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Matt Scott
Date: Saturday, March 18
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 12.30 (12.30 GMT; 13.00 CET)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)