Cotter: Pack Battle Will Be Crucial

Scotland coach Vern Cotter has warned his pack they had better be ready for a fight in Paris on Saturday.

The New Zealander has made just two alterations to the side which scored five tries against hapless Tonga at Rugby Park in November for the Dark Blues' opening RBS 6 Nations clash with France in Paris.

Euan Murray takes Geoff Cross' slot in the front row, while centre Mark Bennett comes into the team in place of Sean Lamont.

But it is among the forward division where the head coach expects the main skirmishes to be played out at the Stade de France.

With a set of on-form backs eager to get their hands on the ball, however, the Kiwi believes a strong display from his pack could set up a winning performance.

Cotter said: "We're feeling excited. It's nice to be able to see the two Gray brothers - Jonny and Richie - together again and Euan Murray comes in too. The tight forward battle will be critical on Saturday.

"France are a big, heavy forward pack and I think they anticipate they will dominate us, so really our guys have got to roll their sleeves up and try to find parity in the tight exchanges, get ball and free up.

"Tommy Seymour has been playing really well this year, as has Stuart Hogg. Tim Visser gets an opportunity and Mark Bennett is back in there. Alex Dunbar played some great rugby during the Autumn series so we need to get them some ball.

"In the half-backs, Greig Laidlaw is a very experienced player and he has got Finn Russell under his wing.

"They have been working hard on game strategy and game management and they will be assisted by others.

"The guys want to do well. It's been a long time between drinks - 16 years - and they see that as a challenge

"Whatever happens I'm sure they will acquit themselves well. They are all very proud to pull on that jersey.''

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