Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


PRO14 Round 13: Edinburgh vs Southern Kings

Mark Bennett - pic © Al Ross
Mark Bennett - pic © Al Ross

Mark Bennett will finally make his Edinburgh debut, appearing at Myreside against the Southern Kings at tomorrow night.

It has been a long old comeback for Bennett, who last featured on these pages during the catastrophic Calcutta Cup last year. In that game he was a replacement for Stuart Hogg, but injured himself almost as soon as he was on the pitch. He will however go down on record as one of the few players to pick up any points in Cammy Black’s “night of the long knives” player ratings.

Since he last played, coaches everywhere have swapped about. Edinburgh is no longer the step down that his transfer from Glasgow was seen as at the time, and Huw Jones who replaced him is not as invincible as we all thought. Bennett still has to impress Gregor Townsend, although now in his capacity as Scotland coach.

Some things change, but some things stay the same. Other Scotland players on the injury comeback trail in recent weeks include Richie Gray (80mins for Toulouse), Duncan Taylor (off the bench for Sarries) and Greig Laidlaw (seen back in training this week).

With Robbie Fruean sadly forced into retirement, Bennett remains the star attraction in Edinburgh’s midfield but James Johnstone and Chris Dean have performed admirably in the first half of the season. It will be interesting to see how Richard Cockerill pairs him up with the others going forward, but he has the steady hands of Phil Burleigh for this weekend’s game.

Dougie Fife joins Duhan van der Merwe in a powerful back three with Blair Kinghorn while at scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is rested and Nathan Fowles starts.

In the area of ongoing interest due to the injury (and disciplinary) problems that have dogged Edinburgh all season, Samoa prop Jordan Lay starts at loosehead with the versatile Murray McCallum now at tighthead and Stuart McInally at hooker, who once again captains the side and looks all set to claim that Scotland 2 shirt against Wales. He should be a worthy addition to the national side’s leadership group as well.

Now nicely settled, the second-row pair of Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis will aim to continue their parallel charge to partner Jonny Gray in February. A back row of Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson and Cornell du Preez gives the team a nicely balanced look.

If there is a worry it is perhaps the depth from bench, but Viliame Mata is likely to make an impact.

The Southern Kings won’t be used to Edinburgh in January, but they’ve had time off while we all monkeyed about with Europe and festive derbies – so they have had plenty of time to prepare.

Edinburgh: 15. Blair Kinghorn, 14. Dougie Fife, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. Phil Burleigh, 11. Duhan van der Merwe, 10. Jaco van der Walt, 9. Nathan Fowles; 1. Jordan Lay, 2. Stuart McInally (Capt), 3. Murray McCallum, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Cornell du Preez.
Replacements: 16. Cameron Fenton, 17. Elliot Millar-Mills, 18. Matt Shields, 19. Fraser McKenzie, 20. Viliame Mata, 21. Sean Kennedy, 22. Chris Dean, 23. Damien Hoyland.

Southern Kings: Ntabeni Dukisa; Yaw Penxe, Berton Klaasen, Martin du Toit, Alshaun Bock; Kurt Coleman, Rudi van Rooyen; Schalk Ferreira (capt), Stephan Coetzee, Rossouw de Klerk; Jurie van Vuuren, Dries van Schalkwyk; Bredenkamp Eitel, Martinus Burger, Ruaan Lerm.
Replacements: Tango Balekile, Njabulo Gumede, Pieter Scholtz, Lindokuhle Welemu, Freddy Ngoza, Gouws Rowan/Godlen Masimla, Harlon Klaasen, Masixole Banda.

Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU)

Myreside, Friday 5 January (kick-off 7.35pm) – live on BBC Alba

24 Responses

  1. Quite like the look of the Edinburgh team to play Kings, although I’d rather have seen Hoyland as starting winger and Graham as wing/fullback cover. Hope Bennett does well and doesn’t injure himself in his first start for them – good to see him back.

    1. I am super excited to see Bennett back on the pitch. If he gets back to his RWC form it’ll be interesting to see if Townsend tries to squeeze both him and Jones into Scotland’s 23. Allegedly Toonie is not that impressed with Bennett’s defence, but hopefully MacRae and Cockerill can sort any concerns in that regard.

      1. If I remember correctly, Bennett raced out of the line so he was hopelessly out of position when Paddy Jackson scored to give Ireland the lead last February. It seemed an uncharacteristically naive/undisciplined thing to do.

        Having said that, I’m not quite as convinced by Jones’ defence as others seem to be. He’s bounced off a few tackles and it seems to me Dunbar has struggled more with Jones outside him than with Taylor, for example.

        Both Bennett and Jones are superbly talented though and I wouldn’t be remotely disappointed to see either on a Scotland team sheet, especially if they’re partnering with Taylor, who I think is utterly dependable and a superb thinker with the skills to back it up. With Dunbar and Scott (not to mention Grigg, Horne, Burleigh as back-up) we’re spoiled for choice.

        All the best to Bennett for a return to fitness and form as soon as possible.

      2. Well Scott and Bennett were v weak in defence versus Samoa in the World Cup, but then Dunbar was embarrassed against England on more than one occasion. Jones does miss tackles I agree. Only really Duncan Taylor has an unblemished defensive reputation among our centres.

        Anyway somehow Toonie has to find the right blend of that lot – what it is I do not know but it is a nice problem to have.

      3. I think everyone was weak in defence versus Samoa in the RWC. It was a horrible game to watch!

  2. Very pleased to see Bennett back in action. He’s always been a class act, and his try scoring record isn’t bad either. Hopefully, not too much will be expected of him too soon as he must be very rusty. He adds a bit of class to an Edinburgh back line that is beginning to take shape. With Kinghorn, Van der Merwe and Bennett lined up, they have more firepower in the backs than they’ve had for years.
    I’d have thought the 6N is too early for him, and hope he simply concentrates on Edinburgh and getting his form back. (and manages to avoid those ‘compensatory problems’ that plague those coming back from long term injuries.)

  3. Need to put the Kings away early – that’s as weak a bench as Edinburgh has had all season. None of them are that bad, but again none of them are that good.

  4. Excellent news that Bennett is starting. Good luck to him. Also good news that Bradbury is back in harness and that Hardie has returned to training after his ban.

    Edinburgh have to maintain progress here with a win against Kings. Doesn’t have to be a 40+ points margin, but it has to be clinical. The bench is the weakest for a few weeks, so it will be interesting to see how Cockerill uses it.

  5. Excellent to see Bennett back on a starting teamsheet. I hope it goes well for him. Also hope his blistering acceleration is unaffected by the injury. Leaving aside questions posed by others about his defensive work, he is a player whose turn of foot and eye for a half-break can confound even the best organised of international defences. With Huw Jones’s ability to play 12 as he showed in the Currie Cup, it’s entirely possible we could see a Jones/Bennett midfield at some point in the upcoming 6N.
    Possibly getting ahead of myself here, and obviously overlooking Dunbar and Taylor (both class acts), but it is an exciting potential combination.
    Anyway, good luck to Mark for his reappearance and, as others on here said as the New Year came in – please, please, Scotland give Wales a skelping on 3 February.

    1. Not wishing injury on any player, of course, but surely Wales’ growing injury list improves Scotland’s chances? It seems likely that Wales will be without North, Hallam Amos, Warburton, Faletau, Moriarty, Lydiate. That’s a lot of back-row omissions. Barclay, Watson et al will feel very confident they can dominate, as long as they don’t fall foul of the ref as Watson did at the weekend.

      1. Also Jonathan Davies which is a big loss for them. And Jake Ball.

        Still with AWJ, Biggar and Webb they’ll have enough nous to win if we aren’t on top of our game – particularly if our scrum disintegrates. Looks like Sutherland may be back next week so hopefully our worst fears about the front row pass with him and Marfo hopefully to return.

      2. It’s a funny thing, but as the list of Wales injuries increases, the more worried I become about 3 Feb. Part superstition, part being so used to disappointments these past 19 years or so I suppose. Like you, I wish no harm or misfortune to any 6N opponent, but it is true that Wales will be weakened by the loss of top class players – and I hope we exploit it ruthlessly.

      3. They also still have Williams and 1/2p (assuming pec injury is short term) plus some kid playing well for Worcester so a potent back three is possible. In the centre they have the Kiwi who’s pretty handy. And they’ll have a good front row as well, plus Davies wee bro in the back row.

        I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this…

      4. Don’t think they ever select James Davies because he is considered a bit of a twat by management team.

    2. I personally rate Bennett highly but even when everyone’s fit I think Dunbar huw Jones is Scotland’s best centre combination and Taylor on bench.

      1. Still can’t get over that Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham though. Dunbar and Jones fell to pieces and it wasn’t as if England’s back line were doing anything special that day.

    3. I doubt we’ll see it during the upcoming 6N but given that Jones is 23 and Bennett is 24 I wouldn’t gamble against it happening before their careers end…

  6. SR Bloggers, I may have gone too soon here but any chance of a “where are they now” update article on the players coming back from injury ahead of or during the Six Nations? Thanks!

    1. Funny should say that, started it yesterday! Injury updates are hard to get hold of, not least from Edinburgh who no longer post an injured list on their press releases…

  7. Believe Darcey Graham is playing club rugby this weekend ? Have I missed an injury – because otherwise I’m struggling to see why he was pulled so sharply from the 7s, where he was really making an impression, to get airse splinters and play club rugby ?

  8. I’ve no idea how strong the King’s scrum is but with Fagerson injured big Murray McCallum is making a bit of a statement here as the Edinburgh scrum is carrying out a demo job and he’s at the forefront.

    1. Agreed. Assuages the worry re prop crisis.

      Kinghorn looks good- don’t see a place for him in the Scotland 23 unfortunately.

      He’s been getting a bit of stick but I expect Toonie will stick with P Horne as 10 cover and if fit Super Dunc, for me, is the second back on the bench. Think McGuigan probably ahead of Kinghorn too re bench spot.

      Interesting to see if Kinghorn would get a shot if Hogg is injured (praying not!) in the starting 15.

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