Scotland bid to secure Vern Cotter’s legacy in his final game

Scotland's Fraser Brown (left), Alex Dunbar (centre) and Huw Jones (right) appear dejected after the final whistle during defeat by England. Pic: PA
Scotland's Fraser Brown (left), Alex Dunbar (centre) and Huw Jones (right) appear dejected after the final whistle during defeat by England. Pic: PA
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Henry Pyrgos has called on Scotland to use this weekend’s clash with Italy to repair the damage done to Vern Cotter’s legacy.

The Kiwi head coach saw much of the hard work he has put into the job over the last three years unravel as the Scots were thrashed 61-21 by England at Twickenham on Saturday.

A team that had climbed to its best ever world ranking of fifth under his leadership was brutally dismantled by the Auld Enemy in London as the Red Rose clinched a second straight RBS Six Nations crown with a record-equalling 40-point winning margin.

It was a painful episode for a line-up who travelled south with genuine belief they could end 34 years of failure at Twickenham and keep alive hopes of a surprise title bid. But in the end, they suffered a nightmare afternoon as Eddie Jones’ gleeful troops cantered over the whitewash no less than seven times.

Cotter, who is being replaced in the summer by Glasgow boss Gregor Townsend, will bid farewell to BT Murrayfield on Saturday when the Azzurri arrive into Edinburgh.

And scrum-half Pyrgos stressed he and his team-mates will go out with all guns blazing to ensure he gets the send off he deserves.

The Glasgow man said: “We’ve spoken in the dressing and the result was not what we wanted to do for Vern. We’re gutted. We’re a lot better than we showed. That’s why it’s so hard to take.

“We know it’s hard for the country to take because there was a lot of positivity behind us. We felt that support from the nation. It’s just tough right now.

“We made a lot of errors and every time we did, England made us pay.

“There’s still a chance we can finish second so we have to get ourselves up for that.

“We’ve done really well at Murrayfield over the last couple of seasons. Things have got better and better there. The atmosphere was brilliant against Wales but we just need to lick our wounds and take it on the chin.

“Vern has done a great job with this squad and now we want to go out and prove we’re a better squad than we showed at Twickenham.

“The biggest impact he has had on this team is results. Before Saturday we were fifth in the world rankings, so you can see Vern has given guys a lot of confidence and great direction. We’ve one more game under him and we’ve got to go out there and do the business.

“Vern won’t want us focusing on him but it will definitely be something in the background. We are conscious that we want to finish his reign in the right way.”

The wheels fell off Scotland’s game plan inside the opening 90 seconds when Fraser Brown was sin-binned for dumping England wing Elliot Daly on to his neck.

It was just the kind of start Cotter was hoping to avoid but his team failed to respond to the set-back and allowed Jonathan Joseph to skip through for the first of his three touchdowns moments later.

By the time Brown returned the damage had been done, with his team 10 points down and little hope of recovering.

Things only got worse, with injuries to key man Stuart Hogg, his replacement Mark Bennett and then later Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson effectively leaving the visitors with a make-shift line-up incapable of defending itself.

But Pyrgos insisted Brown’s rush of blood to the head was not to blame for the events which followed.

“Fraser has put a tackle in and unfortunately, been given a yellow card,” he said. “You need to be careful in those situations.

“Early on in the game you want to come out and impose yourself on the opposition and he’s put in a big hit. Was it his momentum (which made the collision worse), I don’t know. It’s a tough one.

“But what happened is definitely not down to Fraser. There’s a lot more that goes on than that. It wasn’t an ideal start but we’re good enough players, a good enough team, to move on and do better.

“Unfortunately there were loads of other key moments where we made mistakes. They scored tries and the game got away from us very quickly.

“I don’t think it was the occasion that got to us. A lot of the boys have played in big games before. We just didn’t get our job done well enough and that’s cost us.”