YOU can understand why Mark Bennett is taking nothing for granted. A career that has had too many injury-enforced interruptions has clearly imbued in him an element of caution. That’s why he is now refusing to look too far into the future or try to predict outcomes over which he has no control.
He has focused on doing his talking on the pitch and with a string of outstanding performances has made an eloquent case for inclusion in Gregor Townsend’s squad which will be announced tomorrow (Wednesday).
Bennett has recaptured his best form this season, delivering proof, if that were needed, of the talent that has been drawing admiration since he was a teenager. Indeed, he is one of the few Scotsmen whose potential has been sufficiently apparent to attract an academy contract with a French club, when he made the bold move as a youngster to join Clermont Auvergne.
Subsequent injury problems during his time there, at Glasgow Warriors and at Edinburgh with a knee, a bicep and a hamstring have slowed his progress and placed a halt – temporarily he hopes – on his Scotland career. This season, with the benefit of a full pre-season behind him, he has been back to his pacey, direct-running, try-scoring best.
Now, with his 27th birthday just a few weeks away, the Ayrshireman is surely in Townsend’s thoughts for the Six Nations, albeit the options at centre arguably represent the biggest embarrassment of riches at Scotland’s disposal. Bennett acknowledges that it is currently a position in which there is a vast supply. Indeed, there is friendly but fierce rivalry at Edinburgh and, when Glasgow’s midfielders and a clutch of Anglo-Scots are also taken into account, the selection choice is far from straightforward.
So, Bennett, whose performance in Bordeaux on Saturday, when he was both try creator and try scorer, might just have swung the decision in his favour, is reluctant to say much about his chances of making the cut.
“I’ve no idea,” he says when asked if a recall to the international scene might be on the cards. “I’m just doing my thing.
“There’s a lot of competition. There’s a lot of quality centres in Scotland, which means there is going to be that competition for places. You’ve just got to keep trying to do the best you can week-in and week-out.”
He is, however, less guarded about his desire to be involved in the upcoming Six Nations, adding, “I’d love to be. That’s obviously the aim. You want to play at as high a level as you can. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been there. I want to be there but whether I am or not is out of my hands.”
His ambitions are uncomplicated – he just wants to play rugby. However, that simple objective should not be mistaken for any lack of ambition on his part. The flame of desire still burns brightly, and on current form, he must be in contention to his haul of 22 caps.
Even if Townsend decides that now is not the right time for a Bennett comeback, the player has shown his resilience and fighting qualities in the past. And there can be little doubt that if his form continues on its current upward trajectory, he will surely force his way into the thoughts of the national coach in the future.
“Playing rugby is important for me,” he says. “I’ve absolutely loved getting back on the pitch regularly. It’s been great fun and obviously that’s the main goal. I need to just keep working away and hopefully I’ll get back there at some point.”