NOBODY can envy Mark Bennett’s last two years with his dramatic fall from superstar in the making, World Breakthrough Player of the Year nominee and core of the Scotland midfield to just hoping he gets games for Edinburgh.

What makes it worse is that none of it was his fault. It is all to do with a catalogue of injuries that must have had him wondering if it was worth all the pain, aggravation and feeling that he could never catch an even break.

The fact is that in the last two seasons he has made 14 starts with half a dozen runs from the bench, many easing him back from his latest injury, restricting him to 20 club appearances. Last season he managed 321 minutes of rugby – the equivalent of four games.

Now, he promises he is back, fitter and stronger than ever and ready to get back to the stellar levels he once set himself before he wrecked a knee, tore a bicep and ripped his hamstring off the bone in a freak series of

injuries starting two-and-a-half years ago at Twickenham with the last one almost exactly 12 months ago.

“I’ve had my first [full] pre-season since I was at Clermont [Auvergne, where he moved at 18], it’s been a while,” he said. “It’s been hard going, it’s a different loading compared to coming off the back of the Under 20s, summer tours and the like. It’s been a tougher spell but it’s been enjoyable.

“I’m fit, I’m strong. Hopefully, I can transfer that on to the pitch. I’m well conditioned. I’m not saying I wasn’t before but I’ve had an extended period to get myself into good shape, as good as I can be. I’m just looking forward to playing games again.

“It’s been hard – I can’t say I’ve enjoyed all of it – but I’ve got myself fit and strong, which gives me less chance of breaking.”

The thing is that Bennett has been around for so long that he seems to be one of the fixtures in Scottish rugby and it comes as something of a jolt when you remember he is still only 26 and, in theory anyway, his best years are still to come.

He did have that spell in France as a teenager – ruined, not for the last time, by injury – before coming back to Glasgow Warriors where he was very much part of the core squad on either side of the PRO14 title campaign, missing that final after shoulder surgery.

It has set the pattern for the following years. Every time he looked as though he was on his way back to the kind of form that brought him three tries in the last World Cup, including the one that put Scotland ahead against Australia in the quarter-final, disaster would strike again.

Now, he is one of the experienced heads in the remnants of the Edinburgh squad after World Cup call-ups, and having to learn to look after others, not just himself.

“It’s weird, I have gone from always being the youngster to ‘I’m really not anymore’ – and I’m only 26,” he said. “I’ve played a fair bit of rugby even though I’ve not [played much] in the last few years.

“I know what I’m about. So I think it’s just having that confidence now for me to try and step up. I led at the age group level and whatnot. It is just about doing that now and knowing that I know what I’m talking about.

“I just want to play games. It’s about hopefully getting an extended run of games and from that finding a bit of form. Then just see.”