Fit Bennett boosts Scotland

Mark Bennett takes on the Australia defence during Scotland's World cup quarter-final defeat

Centre Bennett has a good strike-rate in his Scotland career to date

Matt Scott believes the return to fitness of “nerveless” fellow Scotland centre Mark Bennett can give the hosts an attacking edge against England.

Bennett plays in the Six Nations opener after shaking off a shoulder injury.

“Mark is a terrific game-breaker, which is what you need at this level. It’s a great boost that he’s fit,” Scott said.

“He is laid-back, you wouldn’t think he hasn’t played for a while. He hasn’t shown any nerves, he’s confident. I’m looking forward to playing with him.”

Bennett, who has scored six tries in his 13 Tests, was injured in Glasgow Warriors’ European Champions Cup defeat by Racing 92 on 9 January.

Initial scans suggested the 23-year-old might be out for up to eight weeks, but he has made a swift recovery to face England four weeks later.

“There was a point last week where I was the only fit centre training, which is extremely unusual because it is usually me on the physio bed,” joked Scott.

Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne and Richie Vernon have suffered injuries, while Duncan Taylor – named among the replacements for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash – will undergo a late fitness test on a back problem on Friday.

“But Mark has come through well,” said Scott. “Hopefully I can put him through a few gaps and let him run some tries in.”

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Scott, who will win his 34th cap on Saturday, will link up with Bennett for a sixth time from the start for Scotland.

The Edinburgh man’s return in place of the injured Horne is one of only two changes – John Barclay for Blair Cowan is the other – to the side beaten by Australia in their World Cup quarter-final in October.

Scott, 25, believes that continuity could be an advantage for Vern Cotter’s side against an England team playing their first game under new coach Eddie Jones.

“We have had Vern as head coach for a decent period of time now,” he said. “We know exactly what he expects and the style of play he wants.

“I know what it is like when you get a new coach in – sometimes it is hard for things to run smoothly from the off.

“But sometimes players get a new lease of life and are rejuvenated by a change of personnel.

“So we have to be extremely wary of England coming out and looking to get their big strike runners into the game.

“We have to be prepared for anything that comes our way on Saturday.

“The punters are right to expect a lot from us. We are aware of that pressure, but we can’t go in with it burdening us.

“We have to take the shackles off and play the game we have been practising for the last 12 months.”

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