Scotland centre Mark Bennett is in the running to be named rugby’s best emerging youngster after his impressive World Cup display.
The Glasgow back is one of three nominees for the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year Award 2015.
We felt that we did so well as a team, and were unfortunate not to progress further in the competition.Mark Bennett
The talented 22-year-old from Cumnock scored three times for the Dark Blues at England 2015 - including his late intercept score which put the Scots on the brink of a semi-final slot last week before Australia snatched victory with a controversial penalty at Twickenham.
Award judges, which include 139-times Australia cap George Gregan and former Argentinian centre Felipe Contepomi, nominated Bennett for the prestigious award alongside New Zealand’s Nehe Milner-Skudder and Georgia’s Vasil Lobzhanidze.
World Rugby’s grounds for recognition were: “A player who has burst on to the rugby scene showing tremendous skill throughout the year and has played no more than one year of international rugby.”
Bennett said: “I was absolutely over the moon when I realised I was up for the award. It’s fair to say I was completely surprised, too.
“I haven’t played much rugby this season, and the international stage has been a big step up, but I’ve loved every second of it.”
Bennett made his international debut in Scotland’s 41-31 autumn Test win over Argentina at BT Murrayfield last year.
He went on to make his mark in the RBS 6 Nations, donning the starting 13 shirt in all five games and scoring against both Italy and England.
He opened his World Cup with a brace of touchdowns in the 45-10 victory over Japan which kicked-off Scotland’s tournament.
But despite crossing the whitewash again with just seven minutes left against the Aussies, his side were denied a place in the last four when referee Craig Joubert wrongly awarded Michael Cheika’s team a last-minute kick at goal which ultimately saw them scrape a 35-34 win.
Australia will now take on the All Blacks in Sunday’s final but Bennett is staying positive.
He said: “It’s surreal that as a child I sat and watched the Rugby World Cup and now I’m one of the guys kids watch.
“We felt that we did so well as a team, and were unfortunate not to progress further in the competition.
“The support was unreal. There was a great Scottish contingent at every match throughout, and especially at the final game against Australia - it felt like the whole of Twickenham was behind us.”
The award winner will be announced at the World Rugby Awards dinner in London on Sunday, November 1.