Mark Bennett: I need to play for Edinburgh as much as I can

Mark Bennett fends off a tackle during Edinburgh's win over Stade Francais at BT Murrayfield last Friday. Picture: SNS/SRU
Mark Bennett fends off a tackle during Edinburgh's win over Stade Francais at BT Murrayfield last Friday. Picture: SNS/SRU
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Mark Bennett’s successful return from long-term injury has been capped with a swift recall to the Scotland squad for the Six Nations but the Edinburgh centre has no desire for the cotton wool treatment.

“I need to play as much as I can, so hopefully I’ll be involved this weekend and that’ll be three in a row before a rest the following week,” said the 24-year-old, who made his comeback for 
Edinburgh against the Southern Kings and backed it up in the 
win over Stade Francais last Friday.

The job as far as qualification for a home quarter-final in the European Challenge Cup is done but Bennett is hoping to play again in Paris tomorrow night in the reverse fixture with Stade before joining up with Scotland for the first time since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in last year’s Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham.

“It has been a long time, I have been in [at the club] pretty constant since I did my knee so if I can get through these three games and take a break…

“I am happy with how the games back have gone and I have lasted two 80 minutes which is a good effort after ten months out.

“I am feeling relatively sharp since I have been back and I have been enjoying it which is half the battle isn’t it?”

The Edinburgh that Bennett has now made his long-awaited debut for is a much different Edinburgh to the one last February it was announced he would be joining from Glasgow in the summer.

The capital pro team found themselves in the grip of a long losing run in the second half of last season before a late rally but have been transformed under new coach Richard Cockerill and have now won 11 of their last 13 games in all competitions.

“I can only comment on what I have been involved in, everything has been really positive,” said Bennett, who earned 20 Scotland caps during his time with Glasgow. “The coaching has been excellent and we are playing a great brand of rugby with some incredible players. So from my point of view it has been incredibly positive.

“It has been a good form of challenge coming into a new team and trying to learn, I am still getting up to speed from that side of things as you would expect having only had five or six weeks of training and two games with the squad, I am still learning.

“I am happy with how it has gone, but there is more to come.”

Bennett said regaining match sharpness was the main priority for him at the moment and added: “I feel good, but mentally I am still just a bit off and maybe the speed of my decision making, in the past I maybe would not have made the same mistakes.

“Nothing major though, I am feeling good and just want to play. There was always a possibility things may have gone wrong, I am a bit of a bombscare at the best of times!

“I was training well into the Kings game and then when I knew I was going to play I couldn’t catch the ball and was too excited. I have settled down.”

Bennett, who helped the Great Britain sevens team to Olympic silver in Rio, is 
looking forward to adding his experience to the side but admits to shock at finding himself one of the elder statesmen at only 24.

“It is incredibly odd,” he said. “I mean, at Glasgow, I was always one of the youngest so to be one of the oldest is funny.

“But although it is a young backline it is quite an experienced one, Sammy [Hidalgo-Clyne] has played I think 99 games, Chris [Dean] has played over 50, Damien [Hoyland] will be the same and so will Blair [Kinghorn] who has been around a while. As much it is young it is experienced and that is good for the future, there is so much more to come.”