MARK Bennett is confident that the new Edinburgh Rugby Stadium will play to the team’s strengths for two related reasons. First, with a capacity of 7,800, the ground in the shadow of BT Murrayfield is far more suited to the size of crowds Edinburgh attract than the national stadium itself. And second, the centre believes that the synthetic pitch is ideal for the fast, attacking type of rugby that new head coach Mike Blair plans to play.

That pitch will host a match for the first time on Friday, when Newcastle Falcons, fresh from their 12-7 victory against Glasgow a couple of days ago, will head north. Yesterday it was the turn of Edinburgh’s supporters to get a glimpse of the ground as the team laid on an open training session, and Bennett for one was enthused by the experience. 

“It was nice having fans in there today and actually having a wee sneak peek of what it’s going to be like,” the 28-year-old centre said. “The pitch is brilliant. We’ve been training on it for a little while now and we’re getting used to it.

“We’re hoping it’ll be near enough full for some of the games over the next few weeks, so I think it’ll be a cracking atmosphere in the place. It’s the perfect size for us and it’s an exciting time.” 

It is a particularly exciting time for an attack-minded player such as Bennett, given the new head coach is a man very much after his own heart - someone whose instinct is to go on the offensive whenever possible. “Mike was a really attack-minded player,” he added. “And the detail he is bringing to what we’re wanting to do in attack has been excellent, so as a club we’re all really excited for the next few weeks.”

As first-up opponents, Newcastle are likely to be a very hard nut to crack. They had a game against Doncaster Knights yesterday, so the squad that competed against the Warriors on Friday night was a mixture of first choices and reserves. They are expected to be at full strength on Friday, but that will not faze Bennett. 

“I saw the score, but that’s all, so I don’t know what they’re going to be like,” he concluded. “We’re just focusing on what we’ve got. It’s pre-season and we’re trying to change some things and put in place what we’re trying to do.”