Mark Bennett celebrated last Wednesday’s call-up to Scotland’s training squad for this Autumn's Test series by registering an impressive all-round performance for Edinburgh in Friday night’s hard-earned home victory over the Bulls – and he believes the influence of Mike Blair since taking over as head coach at the club has been key to his return to the international frame. 

The 28-year-old centre picked up 22 caps for Scotland between his debut in November 2014 and the summer of 2018. He was also nominated as “World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year” after being one of Scotland’s stand-out performers at the 2015 World Cup. 

However, he has failed to add to his cap tally during the last three years, with a combination of injury and form leading to players such as Huw Jones, Chris Harris and Rory Hutchinson jumping ahead of him in the outside-centre pecking order at various points. 

His case for further international recognition was not helped by the formulaic brand of rugby Edinburgh played during the last three seasons under Richard Cockerill, and he is clearly enjoying the freedom he has been given to play his natural game since Blair took up the reins at the capital club tis summer.

“I am playing some really good rugby and I think I am a better all-round player,” said Bennett. “I am a better defender, and I am a bit smarter in the way I am playing, so I will just do what I can if I am picked. 

“You are seeing more of me now in positions where I am good – in the wide channels, taking people on – and I am enjoying that.  

“It was tough for an outside centre to really influence games last season – it is tough going when you are not getting the ball – but Mike has been brilliant he came in during the summer.” 

Bennett is one of 36 players who are in camp with Scotland at the moment as preparation for the national team’s first outing of the Autumn against Tonga on 30th October begins in earnest.

“It has been a long time since I was there,” he said. “I got a late call-up to the summer tour a few years ago, but I don’t think I have been in an original Scotland squad for five years, so I am chuffed.  

“It has been a while, but I have been working hard and I am getting to do more of what I am good at now. 

Bennett took over goal-kicking responsibilities for Edinburgh on Saturday after injuries to Jaco van der Walt and James Lang, slotting a late penalty which gave the capital side a valuable cushion during a tense final 10 minutes. 

“It’s funny, I think I got about two out of 20 in the warm-up, but I got the points when it counts, and that is all that matters,” he smiled.