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Mark Bennett plans rendezvous in Rio with Sonny Bill Williams

Mark BennettMark Bennett is hoping to take on his boyhood hero Sonny Bill Williams at the Rio Olympics.

But he has serious reservations about coming up against his Glasgow club mate Leone Nakarawa in the competition.

Glasgow centre Bennett pressed his case for Rio inclusion in style last week in Moscow on the first leg of the European Series.

Bennett’s previous experience on the World Sevens Series and at the 2014 Commonwealth Games was clear to see, and he looks a good bet for Simon Amor’s final Team GB squad when the training party of 25 is fine- tuned.

With 16 Test caps, the 23-year-old hopes his experience at the highest level will put him in good stead to make the final 12-man squad, even if it means missing Scotland’s tour to Japan.

Given the pool seeding process, Team GB will be paired with either New Zealand, South Africa or Fiji, who have included lock Nakarawa in their training squad.

Bennett told The Rugby Paper:  “I looked up to Sonny Bill growing up and I’ve met him a few times but I’ve never had the chance to play against him so it’d be cool if it was to happen.

“The Fijians are so good and could have Leone in their squad. He is an incredible athlete with amazing ball skills.

“It’s great to play with him at the Warriors but I’d actually hate to play against him to be honest. He’s almost unstoppable. If you tackle him low he’ll offload but go high and he can bump you off with his incredible power.”

Bennett adds: “I played against South Africa at the Commonwealth Games and they gave us a bit of a runaround so I’d like to redeem myself against them too.

“It’s exciting to have Test players involved in Sevens and they’ll bring different strengths. They potentially won’t last the whole 14 minutes of a match, and I put my hand up there, but they have a different skill set and, integrated properly, I think it can be really effective.

“There’s something special about being part of the first Team GB Sevens team to be involved in the Olympics. I’ve had a few calls with (Scottish head coach) Vern Cotter which were very positive and he told me he’d back my decision whatever I wanted to do.

“Scotland are doing really well and there is lot of competition in midfield but I felt that if I could do well in Sevens the rugby would speak for itself and I’d still be in the frame for Scotland.”

Team GB sent two squads to Moscow and Bennett excelled in the Lions team that finished third, ending the tournament top of the try-scoring chart with eight.

With three weeks training before their next tournament, the Sevens And The City event Allianz Park, and the second leg of the European Series in Exeter, Bennett reckons Team GB are in a good place.

He said: “It was my first weekend playing Sevens in two years so it was tough. But the game suits me quite with all the space available.

“Given we only had three days of training together I was quite impressed how it went. It’s tough to play with guys you don’t know but it needed to happen at some point. The team spirit had been there from the off but last weekend has made a huge difference.

“It’s all fine and well training with each other but you don’t really know what’s going to happen until you’re in a game situation.

“We’ve got to fine-tune things but we have a really good base to work from and we can now go back to a big training block and build up nicely for our next two tournaments early in July.”

NICK VERDIER

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