Six Nations 2017: Scotland must target top-half finish - Vern Cotter

Huw Jones playing for Scotland against England
Huw Jones scored two tries in Scotland's defeat

Coach Vern Cotter insisted Scotland can still secure a top-half finish in this year's Six Nations despite a record points defeat by England.

The Scots hoped for a first Twickenham win since 1983 but conceded a record points tally in a 61-21 loss, equalling the margin of the 43-3 defeat in 2001.

Stuart Hogg, Mark Bennett, Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson were all forced off injured, three with head knocks.

"We have had two away games and eight concussions," Cotter told BBC Scotland.

"It isn't the only reason but we certainly had to make early replacements. We finished with (scrum-half) Ali [Price] on the wing and (replacement fly-half) Duncy [Weir] at full-back so there were a few changes.

"We take it on the chin. Credit to England. I thought they played well. We didn't play particularly well, although we scored three tries. We would have liked to have scored four so we could have come away with something [a losing bonus point].

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"My priority at the moment is to check out the casualties and see how many we have got to prepare for Italy at home next week."

Cotter conceded that Scotland gave their hosts a helping hand, with Fraser Brown's yellow card after just two minutes immediately putting the visitors on the back foot.

"We wanted to start well, against a good team, but we did everything to help them in a lot of ways," he said.

"There are some things there we need to deal with if we want to put on a better performance next week. We will sit down and have a good look at those.

"We scored three tries when we had possession but we just couldn't get fast possession in that first half. As soon as we got good tempo and speed we managed to get over the advantage line.

"But we couldn't string things together. Our defence from set-pieces, especially from line-outs, wasn't good. There is a lot to work on and improve. We will analyse it and work hard to get a couple of good training sessions in.

Six Nations table

"We can still finish in the top end of the table and that will be our objective. If our feet weren't on the ground, they definitely are now. We will work hard to put on a good performance next week."

The fifth-placed Scots, who are level on points with Wales but a point behind Ireland and France, host Italy in next Saturday's early match with France hosting Wales in the afternoon and England away to Ireland in the evening.

At Twickenham, Gordon Reid's score was added to by two tries from Huw Jones, with all converted by Finn Russell.

John Barclay again captained Scotland in Greig Laidlaw's absence and said afterwards: "It certainly wasn't a good day.

"It wasn't through lack of trying, just too much error. We didn't play well. Credit to England. They played well, they executed plays under pressure - maybe not under enough pressure."

Vern Cotter
Cotter's last match in charge of Scotland will be against Italy

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