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Cotter making his mark

Scotland's players believe they are beginning to see a difference in the squad under Vern Cotter as the new head coach steps up the work in his second week in charge.

The New Zealander finally took up the reins last week for the start of their tour of North America, although a large part of his first few days in charge were spent assessing his resources with the travel and heat restricting the amount of training that was possible.

However, second row Richie Gray admits Cotter is now beginning to ask a lot more of the squad as they prepare for Saturday's match against Canada.

"Last week, was his first time with all the guys, so there were just small things, little bits and bobs here and there. This week, it has been more hands-on, especially with the forwards," said the Castres player.

"He wants us working in a certain way and is looking at little details; for example at training you are always on the move as you would be in a game.

"They are all game-related drills. When we are working it is not just for the sake of working but looking at what we can do in certain areas of the field.

"I t has been good so far. Training has gone pretty well, pretty tiring but the boys are enjoying it."

Those comments were echoed by Grant Gilchrist, who is likely to be Gray's second-row partner o n Saturday after Jim Hamilton, who started last weekend's Test win against the United States, went home with an ankle injury.

"Vern obviously did not want to bring too much in at once," said Edinburgh lock Gilchrist.

"Being a new coach you can't throw everything at players but he is bringing in a few different things. I hope we can take another step in the right direction this weekend performance-wise and in the result."

Of Hamilton, he added: "It is never great to see one of your team-mates getting injured but it is an opportunity for me and I have to make sure I play my best rugby, and that is what I will try to do.

"I don't think it changes much for the team. I have worked on my line-out calling and it is a good chance to test that at the highest level, and I still think I can bring the game I play every week - carrying ball and making tackles - and that is what I will be looking to do."

Gray has every reason to be one of the more exhausted members of the squad, having come straight to the tour on the back of a lengthy French season, helping Castres reach the Top 14 final where they lost narrowly to Toulon.

"It's been tough," Gray said. "It is getting to that stage of the season where the body is not at its freshest but it is great to be here with all the guys, and the new coach means it is a fresh feel.

"I will enjoy it as much as I can when I am here. I have one game left so I will enjoy it as much as I can."

Thanks to his time at former club Glasgow and in France, Gray has a reasonable idea what to expect from Canada, with his opposite number Jamie Cudmore a familiar face in French rugby with Clermont Auvergne and a couple of players he saw at Glasgow likely to play leading roles.

Gray said: "I know about Jamie and a few others. There's DTH (van der Merwe) at Glasgow and Taylor Paris had a stint there too.

"They have some pretty handy players, they are a tough side and will be coming out of the blocks gunning for this one. It will be a step up from last week."


From Belfast Telegraph