Scotland centre Mark Bennett has returned to training and has a “good chance” of playing in their Six Nations opener against England on Saturday.
Glasgow’s Bennett, 23 on Wednesday, was due to resume contact work on Monday after suffering a shoulder injury against Racing 92 three weeks ago.
“It’s his first day in terms of contact, so he’s back in the mix,” said Scotland assistant coach Matt Taylor.
“I think he has a good chance but he’ll have to put his best foot forward.”
Bennett has scored six tries in 13 Tests and was one of the stand-out performers in Scotland’s World Cup campaign last autumn.
With fellow Glasgow centres Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne and Richie Vernon all ruled out of at least the start of the Six Nations – or in Vernon’s case, the entire Championship – Bennett’s possible availability would be a major boost.
“A fully-fit Bennett is a very good player,” Taylor noted. “There is a reason he played so well in the World Cup, so it is great he is back in the mix.”
Scotland wing Sean Maitland has also been declared fully fit after coming through a full game for London Irish on the weekend.
But Harlequins wing Tim Visser is still a “couple of weeks off” and unlikely to be available before Scotland’s third Six Nations match against Italy in Rome.
With Matt Scott likely to start at inside centre, Bennett is competing with Saracens’ Duncan Taylor for the number 13 jersey against England.
The in-form Taylor has been a vital source of intelligence on England’s likely defensive set-up, with new Red Rose assistant coach Paul Gustard set to bring his famed ‘wolf-pack’ approach from Saracens into the national squad.
“I think Duncan is caught between a rock and a hard place,” grinned Taylor. “He feels like he has been giving out all this information on how Saracens, and now England, are defending. That is hard when there are other guys in our group from the likes of Gloucester and Bath who can benefit.
“But that is international rugby. We have been talking about how they defend and Duncan gives us an insight into what to expect. But we will be trying to concentrate on what we do.”