Edinburgh and Scotland centre Mark Bennett is unlikely to play again this year after suffering a suspected ruptured hamstring in Friday’s 30-29 loss to Ulster in Belfast.
The 25-year-old was stretchered off midway through the first half at the Kingspan Stadium and Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill has revealed that the player was likely to be out for “months”.
“He will have a scan today and we will know in the next 24 hours, but clearly it is something quite significant,” said the coach. “The extent of that we don’t know yet.
“He is on crutches. We think – it is yet to be confirmed – that he has ruptured his hamstring at the very top. Similar to the one [wing] Tom Brown had last year. If it is completely ruptured it is a serious injury.
“If it is what we think it is, it will be months.”
It is the latest blow for the 22-times capped centre who missed most of 2017 with cruciate ligament injury and has had previous knee and shoulder injuries. “It is just one of those,” added a rueful Cockerill. “It is nothing to do with his knees, he just got caught over the ball and he was in a poor position and unfortunately...
“His knees are fine, whoever put the grafts in did a good job because the hamstring went before his knees did!”
Cockerill said he had no issues with the ruck clear-out which led to Bennett’s injury.
“Mark is over the ball, one guys tries to clean him and does not quite get him and then he gets cleaned again and gets caught with his leg straight and got bent into a position where he got past his flexibility,” he said. “Something had to give and it was his hamstring. It was unfortunate, purely bad luck.”
Cockerill said that back-rower Bill Mata could be struggling for Friday’s first home Guinness Pro14 match of the season against Connacht with a shoulder injury picked up against Ulster, although flanker Hamish Watson comes back into contention after his partner gave birth to a baby girl over the weekend. Scrum-half Henry Pyrgos picked up a “minor knee knock” but should be fine for Friday.
Cockerill admitted that the loss of Bennett was a blow as Edinburgh looked to build their backline around an international class midfield with Matt Scott.
“I thought it was starting to develop,” the coach said of the partnership. “That [against Ulster] was the best they have played together, Matt was good last week but outstanding on Friday, his ball carrying and defence were very, very good and solid.
“He made some good line breaks and his shown some really good form and Mark was working well off him and had some good involvements in that first 20 minutes. Unfortunately that is going to be now probably three or four months before we see it again.
“We have James Johnstone and Chris Dean has played there and at 12 very well. Obviously Matt Scott has played at 13 a lot and we have Juan Pablo Socino, so there is some good strength in depth there, that is why we have it. I feel very sorry for Mark because he missed half of last season and now is probably going to miss a big chunk of this year.
“Thankfully it is nothing to do with his knees. People recover from hamstring issues and, as severe as this one is, he will hopefully be fit for the New Year, give or take – we’ll see.”
While frustrated to see his side start the season with two close, losing bonus defeats, Cockerill was more positive than he was after the opening loss at Ospreys, though accepts that points need to be bagged, starting with the visit of Connacht on Friday.
“All those points are going to be important in the mix up,” he said. “The two points we’ve got will be important, but the three we left behind in Ulster will be huge. We’ll get to a stage where we get to knockouts and that might be the difference between being third, being in Europe, being fourth, being second.
Connacht are not dissimilar to ourselves and we need to make sure we play really well.
“I’m not going to put pressure on the team saying it’s a must-win because I don’t think it is. What I want is to get the same performance out the team that we got on Friday. If we do that we’ll win.
“We just can’t look at the end result,. We have to make sure we keep playing well and developing that mentality.
“But the plucky losers bit I don’t like and being the victim I don’t like.”