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Cotter wants 'cohesive' performance

Published 20/08/2015

Stuart McInally will make his first Scotland start in Italy
Stuart McInally will make his first Scotland start in Italy

Scotland coach Vern Cotter admits his side are under pressure after six straight defeats - but claims talking about it ahead of Saturday's clash in Italy will only make matters worse.

The New Zealander watched his side crash to an RBS 6 Nations whitewash earlier this year and there was more disappointment when the Scots lost their opening World Cup warm-up Test to Ireland last weekend.

It is not the type of form the Kiwi would want as he tries to build momentum ahead of next month's start to the global tournament in England.

Scotland face two further Tests after their date at Turin's Olympic Stadium - a return date with the Azzurri next Saturday and a trip to France seven days later - before attention will turn to their Pool B opener with Japan in Gloucester on September 23.

Cotter believes focusing on his side's losing streak will only weigh his players down when they need to concentrate most.

He said: "I think [results this year] will bring added pressure. We are focusing on the content of our rugby and if we can look after that, put in a good performance and do things well, the results will look after themselves.

"There were some promising things last week and the content is important. Obviously everyone is aware of results but added pressure on the team will only stop it performing.

"It's not a competition yet. These are games that are there to help us prepare for the World Cup.

"This weekend there will be things that are very good and things that aren't. Our combinations are changing but we are looking to get a cohesive performance from the players."

Cotter will hand the u ncapped trio of John Hardie, Rory Hughes and Stuart McInally their introductions to international action at the home of Serie A football outfit Torino.

The coach has made a total of 11 changes to his starting line-up following the 28-22 defeat by Ireland last weekend.

Lock Grant Gilchrist had already been named captain, while s crum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and prop Mike Cusack will also make their first Scotland starts as Cotter experiments again.

Edinburgh's McInally finally gets his chance to start after a stomach bug suffered in the build up to the Aviva Stadium defeat delayed his debut last week and will take up position as hooker, between Gordon Reid and Cusack.

Richie Gray partners Gilchrist in the second row while there is an all-new back row as Hardie starts alongside Alasdair Strokosch and Adam Ashe.

New Zealander Hardie, who qualifies for Scotland through his Fife-born grandmother, quit his homeland i n a bid to fulfil his World Cup ambitions.

The former Highlander is still without a club side but Cotter believes the sacrifices made by the highly-rated 26-year-old mean he is worth considering for the final 31-man squad he must pick ahead of the final warm-up fixture with the French.

"John has played 50-odd games for the Highlanders and was very close to national selection in New Zealand," said the Scotland coach.

"He made the choice to come over here with no [club] contract so what I see in him is character - it takes a bit of courage to do what he's done.

"He believes in his skill sets and what he can bring to a Scotland jersey. It's in his blood too. He now gets his opportunity."

Duncan Weir comes in at fly-half, with Matt Scott and the returning Richie Vernon in the centre slots.

Greig Tonks moves to full-back after wearing the number 10 jersey in Dublin, while Sean Lamont is partnered on the wing by Glasgow's Hughes.

It has been a swift rise for 22-year-old Hughes. He only made his first start for Warriors 18 months ago and his national team call-up has come ahead of schedule.

Hughes said: "Honestly, I never thought I'd be in with a chance for this year's World Cup. I thought it would be maybe the next World Cup.

"It was a huge shock when I got named in the training squad. How would I now rate my chances? I'll just have to wait and see how this game goes before I can make a judgement."

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