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Mark Bennett admits he may end up paying for Olympic silver with Scotland place

Published 24/11/2016

Mark Bennett, pictured in TeamGB training kit, will start for Scotland against Georgia on Saturday
Mark Bennett, pictured in TeamGB training kit, will start for Scotland against Georgia on Saturday

Mark Bennett admits he may end up paying for his Olympic silver with his Scotland place.

The Glasgow centre opted out of joining the Dark Blues' summer tour of Japan as he chased glory at the Rio games.

His gamble paid off to the extent that he walked away from Brazil with a medal hanging from his neck after making it all the way to the final of the men's sevens competition with Team GB.

But his absence on the Far East trip opened the door for Stormers back Huw Jones.

The Edinburgh-born 22-year-old only made a brief appearance in the second Test clash with the Brave Blossoms at the end of June but it was enough to convince head coach Vern Cotter he was capable of facing Australia in the opening autumn international.

A try brace underlined his potential, with Jones following up his Wallabies display with an impressive assist for Sean Maitland in last weekend's win against Argentina.

Injury, however, means Jones misses out on Saturday when the Scots round off their November clashes against Georgia in Kilmarnock and Bennett knows he needs to take this opportunity or else he may find himself out in the cold for good.

Bennett - who was nominated for World Rugby's Breakthrough Player of the Year 12 months ago - said: "I'm delighted to be back in the squad, Huw's been playing for the last few weeks and I've been given an opportunity this weekend. I want to stake a claim and keep the shirt.

"The competition in the squad is huge, going away to Rio when the team were in Japan meant there was the opportunity for someone else to have that chance.

"Huw was given the chance to stake a claim and that's what's happened.

"I need to do my best this weekend to do well and take that jersey back.

"Huw has been outstanding in the first two games, I can't say any more than that. I just need to go out and be outstanding."

Cotter is not short on options in midfield, with Bennett's Glasgow colleague Alex Dunbar on a list that also includes Jones, Saracens' Duncan Taylor and Matt Scott of Gloucester, who despite being one of Scotland's most reliable servants in recent years did not even make the squad for the autumn Tests.

"It's clear to see there's a good group there," admitted Bennett. "There are five or six boys who can play and any of us could start. It's about going out and playing well and this weekend is no exception.

"It's become more competitive week in and week out. There is a real fight at training to stake a claim as the coaches are watching when they are picking a squad.

"It's a case of knowing you have to go out there every day and give of your best."

Saturday's match at Rugby Park will be something of a homecoming for Cumnock-born Bennett - who is one of five changes to the Dark Blues side that edged out Argentina.

But the 23-year-old is more concerned about ensuring the Georgians do not leave Ayrshire with a notable scalp.

He said: "It's the same as any other game, you need to do your best to win it.

"Georgia are a good side, they are up and coming. They had a great win last weekend against Samoa. Samoa ran us close at the World Cup so we know how big a test this will be for us, we need to go and out and make sure we get the win.

"Are we under more pressure against one of the so-called smaller nations? I don't think it's any different, it's an international fixture. You want to put a big score up against every side you play. It just doesn't always happen.

"It's about going out and playing the game and taking it as it comes."

Bennett takes Jones' slot in the only change to the back division. In the pack, Ross Ford returns to replace Fraser Brown at hooker. Richie Gray has shaken off a head knock to reclaim his place at lock from Grant Gilchrist.

In the back-row, Magnus Bradbury and John Barclay are replaced by Ryan Wilson and Rob Harley.

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