Edinburgh’s Mark Bennett admits he is feeling as fit as he ever has after taking part in a full pre-season programme for the first time since 2011.
Four years ago Bennett’s interception try nearly saw Scotland through to the World Cup last four before a late Australian penalty won the Twickenham quarter-final for them 35-34.
The 26-year-old from Cumnock has not played for his country since the summer of 2018 and while no doubt wishing he was currently with Gregor Townsend’s squad in Japan he is fully focused on getting a run of early season games under his belt with Edinburgh.
When he joined the capital club from Glasgow Warriors in the summer of 2017 he was recovering from a long-term knee injury and did not make his debut until January 2018.
Last term the centre was out from September to February with a nasty hamstring problem, so it is no surprise that he is keen to get going in 2019/20.
“I’ve done my first pre-season since I was at Clermont [in 2011], so it’s been a while,” said Bennett, who has had most of his summers disrupted by injuries or representative tours.
“I’ve had a 16 week pre-season which has been great, so this has got to be the best condition I’ve been in.
“The pre-season has been hard, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed all of it, but I’ve got myself fit and strong. Now I just want to play games. I can’t remember how many I have played in the last two seasons, but it’s not many, about 16 games, which is nothing. So for me it’s about hopefully getting an extended run of games and from that finding a bit of form.”
Bennett played in the friendly win over London Scottish and is expected to have a big part to play in the warm-up game with the Ospreys on Saturday at BT Murrayfield.
Then the Guinness Pro14 campaign starts on 28 September and with Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist and Hamish Watson away with Scotland – and Bill Mata with Fiji – he will be expected to take a leadership role in the side in the coming weeks. “It’s weird, I have gone from always being the youngster to not really being anymore – and I’m only 26,” he joked. “I’ve played a fair bit of rugby even though I’ve not [played much] in the last few years, I know what it’s about so I think it’s just having that confidence now for me to try and step up and be a leader.
“We are missing a lot of players, but we’ve also had a lot of guys come in who are looking good. I think we’ve got an exciting squad and we’re trying to change, we are wanting to play with a bit more width and get the backline going and causing problems.”