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Johnson: We needed Brown back

Scotland head coach Scott Johnson claims he has recalled skipper Kelly Brown for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with France because his team-mates "need" him.

The Saracens flanker was unceremoniously dumped out of the Dark Blues squad which lost to England before bouncing back to beat Italy in Rome a fortnight ago after his part in the 28-3 defeat to Ireland in the tournament opener.

But despite sitting out the dramatic last-gasp win at the Stadio Olimpico - secured by Duncan Weir's drop-goal 10 seconds from time - Brown is now back to lead out the side against Les Bleus at Murrayfield.

Johnson had originally told the former Glasgow man he would need to brush up on his defensive work if he wanted his place back but now says France's fluid running style will suit Brown better than the man he replaces, Warriors forward Chris Fusaro.

He told Press Association Sport: "I think Saturday is a game that will really suit Kelly. Unlike other sides in the competition, France play above the ground a bit and there will be a lot of mauling.

"I think the pitch suits Kelly too and I've picked a side that can win the game and that's most important.

"We had a look at the opponents, we had a look at Kelly's form and we had a look at where we thought we could improve the team and in the end we thought it was a good match.

"I asked him to improve on some things and he is certainly well on the way to doing that.

"We thought that this was a game that really fitted him. I think the team really needs him back against France and it's a welcome addition."

Brown's return is one of three changes to the Scots pack, with prop Geoff Cross holding off the fit-again Euan Murray to pinch Moray Low's slot at tighthead after the Glasgow player's struggles in Rome, while David Denton comes in for Ryan Wilson, who has been fighting a tonsillitis bug all week.

Johnson admitted of his personal difficulty as he told Brown - who he "respects greatly, both as a man and as a player" - he was out of the side.

But recalling him only meant he was faced with another tough conversation, this time with Fusaro.

"It was an easier conversation to have with Kelly but that means there is a hard one to have with someone else," he said. "That's the way it works in this business.

"I work on the theory that you can only be honest and treat each player the way you'd like to be treated yourself.

"Chris' endeavour was fantastic during his first two caps. I had a right good look back at the Italy match and you could see he won us some vital turnovers.

"He was exemplary in defence - his work was first-class - but he did get caught out positionally a couple of times and you get that with younger players some times. He accepts that.

"But there is growth there now. He needs to go away and continue that because it just goes to show that he can compete at the highest level. That's a box ticked for us now and, talking about competition for places, he is someone who can play in a different way to what we have already.

"It's the start of his international career and he now knows he can do it."

Cross took over from Low in Rome just before half-time as Johnson grew concerned that the Azzurri were dominating the early scrum exchanges.

The switch worked wonders in the second half as Scotland came back with two Alex Dunbar tries before Weir made himself a hero at the death.

But Johnson says the Edinburgh prop must now prove he is reliable enough to hold on to his spot.

He said: "I think it is the right thing to do. Geoff did really well in Rome against a formidable scrum b ut now it is a different challenge because he's starting the game.

"It's a big game for Geoff. He has been picked to do well at the set-piece and if he does that again we will be in a good position."


From Belfast Telegraph