Gregor Townsend backs Fraser Brown to improve Scotland at openside

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Gregor Townsend has no concerns about fielding Fraser Brown in the back row after naming his Scotland side to face Argentina on Saturday.

Brown will line up at openside flanker in the Dark Blues’ final game on tour after Stuart McInally returned from injury.

Gregor Townsend has no concerns about fielding Fraser Brown at openside instead of his normal position of hooker. Picture: SNS Group

Gregor Townsend has no concerns about fielding Fraser Brown at openside instead of his normal position of hooker. Picture: SNS Group

Captain McInally makes his first start in the final Test of the Americas tour following a calf injury, but his presence means Brown, normally a hooker, will line up in the back row to face the Pumas.

Jamie Ritchie, a regular in the position for Edinburgh, has to settle for a place on the bench, but Townsend is confident Brown can bring something new to the role after impressing off the bench against the United States last week.

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“The breakdown is huge, no matter who you play,” he told Scottish Rugby. “We want to have more presence around the ball, post-tackle.

“We have not done it as well as we planned on this tour, Fraser brings that.

“He is an excellent hooker and in competition with another excellent hooker - Stuart who is our captain - and it’s brilliant to have him available for us this week.

“We believe it is best for the team that we get Fraser on for as long as possible.

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“He has played seven as recently as last week when he came off the bench against the USA and played really well and has had a week to prepare in that position this week.

“We know we have Jamie Ritchie on the bench - someone who works very hard and can come on in any of those three positions.

“The two other players in the back row have big challenges too; Magnus (Bradbury) has been excellent on tour, David (Denton) has been involved in both games and we want them to be dominant in defence as well as attack.”

Following the 30-29 defeat to the USA last week, Townsend has made wholesale changes to his pack with Tim Swinson the only man to keep his place, albeit in the second row.

Along with McInally’s return, Allan Dell and Simon Berghan start in the front row while Grant Gilchrist, Bradbury and Denton also come in with Brown to make up the rest of the forwards.

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Dougie Fife makes his first international start in three years after a try-scoring return to the international game last week and is the only change in the backs, but it is up front where Townsend expects the game to be won or lost.

“Up front will be a huge battle,” he explained. “The scrum, the maul, the contact area, defending close to the ruck are all areas Argentina contend no matter who they are up against.

“We will be up for that challenge and impose our game. We haven’t done that enough on tour, keeping hold of the ball and putting teams under pressure.

“We have done it in short periods and looked really dangerous, but we need to do that much more often.”

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