Scotland keen to impress in Italy despite absence of Duhan van der Merwe

The 26-year-old will be unavailable for Gregor Townsend’s side’s remaining games against Italy and Ireland

Anthony Brown
Tuesday 08 March 2022 21:19
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Duhan van der Merwe is out of the rest of the Six Nations (Jane Barlow/PA)
Duhan van der Merwe is out of the rest of the Six Nations (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scotland will complete their Guinness Six Nations campaign without Duhan van der Merwe.

The 26-year-old has been hit with a three-week ban after he was sent off for reckless or dangerous play during Worcester’s defeat at London Irish in the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday.

He will be unavailable for Gregor Townsend’s side’s remaining games against Italy and Ireland.

The rest of the Scotland squad will head to Rome knowing the title is out of reach, but there is no chance of Mark Bennett treating Saturday’s showdown as a meaningless fixture.

Mark Bennett is eager to make the most of his opportunity (Steve Welsh/PA)

The 29-year-old Edinburgh centre feared his international career was over after he drifted out of the picture following his 22nd cap against USA in June 2018.

After a strong start to the current campaign with his club, he was called back into the Scotland fold for the Autumn Tests but did not feature due to injury.

However, having waited more than three-and-a-half years, he finally got back on the pitch for his country as a replacement in last month’s defeat by France. He is now desperate to continue his international renaissance in Rome this weekend.

“Getting back in the team has been something I’ve been gunning for over the last few years and I’ve not been able to achieve it, so getting back out there against France was incredible,” he said. “I absolutely loved it so if I get the opportunity again this weekend, it’s another one I’ll savour.”

Bennett admits the Scots will have to tame a partisan home crowd in the Stadio Olimpico if they are to reignite their Six Nations campaign following back-to-back defeats against Wales and France.

“It’s a great place to play rugby,” he said. “The Italian crowd is always very passionate. We’ve got to start fast and not let them get wind in their sails because they’re a side who, when they get on top of you and get momentum, will gain confidence. We need to find a way to stop that.”

Scotland head to Italy looking for victory following successive defeats (David Davies/PA)

Bennett insists Scotland still have plenty to play for in their last two matches against Italy and Ireland despite the deflating effect of losing two of their opening three matches.

“We’re aiming to finish the tournament with back-to-back wins,” he said. “We’ve got to win this weekend and that’s the most important game at the moment. We’re up against a good side so we’ve got make sure we’re prepped for it.

“If you look at the last few games, we’ve potentially missed a few opportunities. We’re disappointed about a few things we let go in the France game and we want to rectify that. As a backline, we’re really excited about the opportunity this weekend to come out and show what we’ve got. We want to make amends.”

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