Why Edinburgh won’t compromise their commitment to attacking rugby

Edinburgh have been praised for their commitment to attacking rugby this season and no-one has benefited from this more than Mark Bennett.

Mark Bennett has been in excellent form for Edinburgh this season. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

The centre has been given a new lease of life under coach Mike Blair and is adamant they won’t change their expansive style as the season reaches its climax.

Edinburgh are through to the quarter-finals of both the United Rugby Championship and the Challenge Cup and host Wasps in the latter on Saturday.

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Blair’s side saw their unbeaten home record ended by Ulster last weekend but still managed to secure a losing bonus point through a late try by Bennett which clinched their place in the URC play-offs.

Their opponents in the last eight will be determined by the result of the 1872 Cup clash against Glasgow Warriors on May 21 at Murrayfield which is expected to attract a crowd in excess of 20,000.

The big games are coming thick and fast, but Bennett says Edinburgh will not compromise the way they play, even against top-class opposition.

“It’s what we’re about,” said the Scotland international. “You saw that at the weekend: the first play of the game, we made a line-break from kick-off. It’s us. It’s the brand of rugby that we want to play, it’s the brand of rugby that we find suits us. So I don’t think we need to step away from that.

“We need to crack on now. We’ve played some great rugby, we’ve won some big games, but the bigger ones are still to come. So the next few weeks are going to be big for the club and really show how far we’ve stepped forward this season.”

Mark Bennett celebrates his late try against Ulster. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

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The contrast with last year is stark. Edinburgh were far more conservative under previous coach Richard Cockerill and Bennett saw little of the ball. Blair has unshackled the centre and been rewarded with a string of impressive performances which saw the player recalled to the Scotland team after a near four-year absence.

“I’m playing good rugby, I’m enjoying myself, and you’re seeing that in the way I play,” said Bennett. “I’m getting to do what I want to do and it’s working.”

His try against Ulster was a case in point. The visitors had frustrated Edinburgh for much of the match, defending stoutly on their own line before Bennett took the ball in the line, chipped through and ran in the score.

Chris Dean impressed after coming on as an early substitute against Ulster for the injured James Lang. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“I had said about it to the boys outside and they’d said no, but I saw the space was there so I went for it,” said Bennett. “To be fair, I think they didn’t actually hear what I was saying, more than anything else. But I saw it was there and I took it on and it’s come off for me, so I’ll take it.”

An early injury to James Lang meant Chris Dean joined Bennett in the centre against Ulster. The long-serving Dean has not had much game-time this season but worked the visitors hard with his tireless running.

“It’s his work rate that really defines him,” said Bennett. “He gets himself into positions that other players probably wouldn’t work hard enough to get to in attack, and defensively he’s really solid. So I think that we saw the best of him at the weekend and it was really good to see.”

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