Scotland’s title aspirations came crashing down around them at Twickenham as Eddie Jones’ side cruised to a 61-21 victory, crowning them champions for a second successive year.
The defeat left Scotland in fifth place in the table with one match remaining, but still with a chance of finishing second if they can secure a big win over Italy and other results go their way.
Cotter’s last match in charge before joining Montpellier sees the coach keep faith with the majority of his side despite the damaging loss to England, Ford coming in at hooker in place of Fraser Brown – who escaped further punishment this week after being cited for a tip-tackle on Elliot Daly.
The only other change for Scotland is on the bench with Matt Scott returning at the expense of Mark Bennett, who injured his knee and arm shortly after coming on as a replacement for Stuart Hogg at Twickenham.
TEAM ANNOUNCED | Ross Ford is Cotter’s only starting change to face Italy. Matt Scott joins the bench in place of injured Mark Bennett. pic.twitter.com/A54t481xCc
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) March 16, 2017
“The players were frustrated by last weekend but we must take all the learnings from the past years and produce a strong, complete performance to put us in the best possible position to finish in the top-half of the table,” said Cotter.
“We have a lot of respect for them and feel they have been improving throughout the competition.
“They showed in this campaign they can be innovative, so preparation has been key to ensuring we put in a good performance. We have to be ready for anything.”
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tim Visser, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, Ross Ford, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Tim Swinson, Cornell Du Preez, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Matt Scott.
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